“Assemblage” by Natasha Brown: surrendering


by Natasha Brown

Translated from English by Jakuta Alikavazovic

Grasset, 160 pages, €17

For an average Briton, in other words a white man, her identity seems simple to describe: she is a black woman, attractive, from the training of excellence of “Oxbridge”, salaried employee with brilliant success; the portrait is completed by a boyfriend from the English elite. What more could she dream of? For her, it is quite different. Who did she end up becoming in all the assemblage that composes her? How to recognize her own desires when she has never stopped complying with the silent injunctions that have always rained down on her?

Not content with having donned the uniform required for her, she worked to embody to schoolgirls the miracles of English social ascent and the generosity of a colonial empire which opened the doors wide to its natives. The invitation to a garden party at her boyfriend’s parents leads her to deep questions about her career and her future.

A headlong rush

Virginia Woolf and her Mrs Dalloway are not far from the narrator of this short novel. The vignettes follow one another to the rhythm of his thoughts, without worrying about naming the silhouettes that briefly populate his pages – only a few stalker colleagues and a capricious friend are adorned with a first name. The boyfriend assures us, on playful days, that of the two, she is the richer. One essential difference, however: she earns her money through her work, he is content to pocket the interest from profitable investments. “Compound interest, accumulating over generations. »

In her headlong rush in a mad race for ascent, the narrator sees no way out, only envisages tragic freedom in a cancer whose diagnosis has just come in… In a cold writing that distills anguish, charge, of a virulence as rare as it is elegant, says violence to be black in British society. ” English cousin for her family in Jamaica, where she has never set foot, she is constantly referred to her skin color in Great Britain and summoned at the same time to assimilate. “Dissolve in the melting pot. Then pour yourself into the mold. Bend your bones until they crack, split, until it fits. (…) And always, on the bass line, under the insistent vocabulary of tolerance and conviviality – disappear! »

Source : BBN NEWS

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