Marie NDiaye
The Cheffe: A Cook’s Novel

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© By Sheila 

What a story. The novel by Marie NDiaye is a sober description of inspired fire and absolute art. Of an unfulfilled longing. And of more than one life,  which was sacrificed under the guise of the kitchen. Or to keep it simple: A really good book.

I love books, in which the kitchen plays a big role. They are the ultimative treat for a gourmand slash literature lover. There is nothing more beautiful for me than full-bodied descriptions of cooking, scents, ingredients and taste. If the cooking, the feasting should paint a background to the actual story, that’s bad luck. Because in such books, the action for me is usually secondary. 

What is more important to me are these small gourmet trips. Gourmet trips with your feet on the sofa, the heating behind and enjoyment between the sides. Gourmet trips that often lead to an inspired robbery of a near supermarket. As I said, I’m a greedy bookworm. Now, I also said mostly. Because the book by Marie NDiaye has so brilliantly entangled me in its content that the kitchen again becomes a tool and their pleasures give way to long, precisely and sensitively constructed sentences. I didn’t feel too disappointed.

Marie NDiaye traced the path of an austere and extremely talented woman, who, out of dire poverty, became one of the most celebrated chefs in France. The narrator position and first person perspective were handed over to her eternally faithful, unheard friend and admirer as a chronicler. Bit by bit, his potential questions and answers form the past. The picture of the chef and her immediate circle is rigorous and at the same time, through NDiaye’s precise descriptions, makes the most rare layers of feeling resonate inside a reader. Which brings me to the quality I loved the most about Marie Diaye’s writing: Discovering layers of feeling again, which I didn’t experience for a long time.

It was a book that brought me back to feelings that I even forgot last. Not particularly exciting, but gripping. And with an end, that can be described as absolutely fitting. I was left empty and satisfied, which is unusual for the ending of one of my gourmet trips.

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