‘Brulard’s Day’ by Marie Ndiaye, translated by Jordan Stump

Ndiaye’s long sentences, sometimes luxurious, sometimes incredulous, interrupted by abrupt or incomplete remarks—I’d read ‘Brulard’ again and again just for that, just to reexperience her beautiful prose arrhythmias. Brulard runs into acquaintances who aren’t where they should be. Strangers turn up out of nowhere to send tumbling off-course Brulard’s day of desperate waiting. Ndiaye gives you just enough to make you want to fill the gaps in Brulard’s experience without the author’s help. You sense, though, under the story’s restless current, an odd stasis, as if maybe all that’s really happening is nothing. So at the end, when you look back and say, ‘This is the story of Eve Brulard, an out-of-work actress whose precarious situation becomes so outrageous that it pushes her over the edge,’ you disbelieve yourself at once, saying instead – and seeming no less implausible – ‘ . . . out-of-work actress who’s received a terrible shock, after which everything that happens is hallucination as she tries to unknow the terrible thing that she’s just learned.’

Ndiaye says: “She understood, but, oh God, how she dreaded learning what it was that she understood.”

First published in French as ‘Une journée de Brulard’ in Tous mes amis, Minuit, 2004. First published in English in All My Friends, Two Lines Press, 2013