When I was planning which books and publishers I wanted to spend time with during #ReadIndies month, I had a pretty good idea of what I intended to read and cover. However, there’s always a spanner in the works – and in this case it was a very good one! I was approached by Influx Press, who I’ve encountered before when I read “Plastic Emotions”; and they kindly offered a review book of a new book they were issuing, “Self Portrait in Green” by Marie NDiaye, translated by Jordan Stump. The description sounded very enticing, and as NDiaye is a new author to me, I was happy to accept – and I’m very glad I did!

Marie NDiaye is a French author with an impressive record; longlisted for the 2013 Man Booker International Priz, she’s also been awarded the Prix Femina as well as being the first Black woman to win the Prix Goncourt, which is the highest honour a French writer can receive. The author of a dozen plays and works of prose, her book “Self Portrait in Green” is a novella length piece of fiction, and it’s absolutely mesmerising.

The book is told in the form of non-chronological diary entries, and the unnamed narrator seems to be a troubled and perhaps unreliable one. The novella opens with the Garonne River preparing to flood – it’s a place that will haunt her throughout the book – and the narrator goes on to relate a series of encounters with mysterious green women. Whether taking her children to school, visiting her estranged family members, or conversing with a suidical woman who may or may not already be dead, the image of green women possesses her. Real or unreal, as the narrator explores her life and her past, the idea of women turning into these strange and elusive green females becomes an obsession, and in the end it’s hard to know whether they’re part of her imagination or whether they really exist…

“Self Portrait in Green” is beautifully written and as haunting as the women it portrays. The constantly shifting locations and imagery are unsettling, the prose hints at things which aren’t seen and it’s a book that raises many questions but leaves the reader with no real answers. There’s a hint of the Gothic, a sense that the narrator may be projecting her anxieties onto these other women and a real feeling that her perceptions are unreliable. It’s a fascinating piece of writing and of course the title does suggest that the narrator is as much a women in green as the others she encounters, whatever the significance of that colouring is… Is the green the environment, the threat it’s under or the threat it brings? Green is of course the colour connected with jealousy, and that *is* an emotion which appears in the book. It’s all very intriguing, and open to interpretation, which I rather love.

On the evidence of this, Maria NDiaye is an author whose work I really would like to explore. As I said above, the writing is quite beautiful, the shifting atmospheres she creates convincing and the nebulous reality discomforting at times. I’ve no idea if this is typical of her work, but it’s a remarkable book and I’m very glad that I had the chance to include it in #ReadIndies. “Self Portrait in Green” is published on 25th February, and I highly recommend it!