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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

All my Friends

Marie NDiaye

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To purchase All my Friends

Title: All my Friends
Author: Marie NDiaye
Genre: Stories
Written: 2004 (Eng. 2013)
Length: 140 pages
Original in: French
Availability: All my Friends - US
All my Friends - UK
All my Friends - Canada
Tous mes amis - Canada
All my Friends - India
Tous mes amis - France
Alle meine Freunde - Deutschland
Tutti i miei amici - Italia
  • French title: Tous mes amis
  • Translated by Jordan Stump

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Our Assessment:

B : a fine touch; nice introduction to the author

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
L'Express . 2/2/2004 Daniel Rondeau
Publishers Weekly . 18/3/2013 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "Leurs fêlures comptent plus que leur identité, les tensions qui les traversent ont plus d'importance que leurs apparences. Avec ses nouvelles, Marie Ndiaye est entrée dans l'atelier des sentiments. Elle travaille sur quelques épures, des crampes nerveuses, en fait: la fébrilité, l'amertume, l'impatience, l'appréhension, l'absence de consolation, la jalousie. Jamais sur la chair. Ni sur le mouvement (sauf celui des caractères)." - Daniel Rondeau, L'Express

  • "Stump's perfectly calibrated translation captures the rich timbre and fearsome bite of NDiaye's chiseled prose. Empathy may not be NDiaye's strong suit -- she prefers a kind of lacerating sincerity -- but that may be the price to pay for such lucid and affecting stories." - Publishers Weekly

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       All my Friends is a collection of five stories that, far from celebrating friendship, are tales of dissociation, revealing characters who are unable find to find connection even with those who should be closest to them, family or friends. This is presented most obviously in the first (and title-)story, in which the narrator, a teacher who now employs one of his former students as a housekeeper, can at best briefly manipulate others; in what is a typical closing scene in this collection -- suggestive, at the brink of something, yet without spelling everything out exactly -- he explains what he plans to a woman who literally cannot comprehend him. Yet even in this story, that is only a final scene displaying how removed he is from everyone else: as he has related earlier, his wife -- also a teacher -- abandoned him, taking the kids with her; another former student, Werner, even changed his name because it was the same as his teacher's.
       Friendship and connection linger in many of the stories in All my Friends, but as abstraction -- in the characters' minds, rather than in their reality. In 'All my Friends' the teacher still fixates on those who were his students fifteen years earlier, and clearly has not fully accepted the loss of his wife and children. Even more obviously, in 'The Death of Claude François', Zaka explains to her daughter that she's visiting: "My best friend, even if it's been thirty years since I last saw her". And, leaving the girl outside when she visits her friend, she can't find the child when she comes out again:

Paula herself, or the silhouette that might have been hers, took off as well, in the other direction. The cold shadow of a building swallowed her up.
       NDiaye has a very nice touch with her writing. There's a clarity and crispness to it, even as her characters are often in a sort of fog, uncertain of their own place and position. The stories end not in a clear resolution, but an open-ended amplification of what led to this point -- most clearly in 'The Boys', where a character longs for escape but finds anything but when his wish is granted.
       There's a creepy quality to these stories too, with characters who are not sympathetic but exert -- in NDiaye's telling -- a strong fascination.
       All my Friends is a fine introduction to NDiaye in English, showing off the strength of her writing and subtlety of her story-telling.

- M.A.Orthofer, 1 July 2013

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All my Friends: Reviews: Other books by Marie NDiaye under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of French literature

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About the Author:

       French author Marie NDiaye was born in 1967.

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© 2013-2021 the complete review

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