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Additional Information
ISBN: 9781931883917
Pages: 128
Size: 5 x 8
Publication Date: September 8, 2020
Distributed By: Publishers Group West

That Time of Year

by Marie NDiaye
Translated from French by
Jordan Stump

“What at first appears to be a Kafkaesque fable about insiders and outsiders quickly morphs into a metaphysical horror story about the bonds between the living and the dead … The novel shares some DNA with the Argentinian writer Samanta Schweblin’s Fever Dream in its embrace of the fantastic and as a haunting reinvention of the literary horror story … it left me eager to read more.” —Chicago Review of Books

“Utterly compelling in tone, plot, and style…this gorgeously eerie book will keep you holding your breath even past the end.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Herman’s wife and child are nowhere to be found, and the weather in the village, perfectly agreeable just days earlier, has taken a sudden turn for the worse. Tourist season is over. It’s time for the vacationing Parisians, Herman and his family included, to abandon their rural getaways and return to normal life. But where has Herman’s family gone? Concerned, he sets out into the oppressive rain and cold for news of their whereabouts. The community he encounters, however, has become alien, practically unrecognizable, and his urgent inquiry, placed in the care of local officials, quickly recedes into the background, shuffled into a deck of labyrinthine bureaucracy and local custom. As time passes, Herman, wittingly and not, becomes one with a society defined by communal surveillance, strange traditions, ghostly apparitions, and a hospitality that verges on mania.

A literary horror story about power and assimilation, That Time of Year marks NDiaye once again as a contemporary master of the psychological novel. Working in the spirit of Leonora Carrington, Victor LaValle, and Kōbō Abe, NDiaye’s novel is a nightmarish vision of otherness, privilege, and social amnesia, told with potent clarity and a heady dose of the weird


“For all its elements of pyschological horror, there is something hauntingly real to NDiaye’s world, where ‘pale, serene, detached, smiling faces hid an inconsolable sorrow.’” The New York Times

“Marie NDiaye is so intelligent, so composed, so good, that any description of her work feels like an understatement.” —The New York Review of Books

“One of NDiaye’s early texts, [That Time of Year] serves as a site of play for the writer’s longtime interests, from class mobility and assimilation to power and control, and offers an opportunity to survey the development of a writer whose enviably imagined and intelligently executed stories have propelled her into the international spotlight…a haunting lesson about the ease with which a panicked outsider can be lulled into complacency and inaction.” Bookforum

“The book, which is a rumination on (and a cackle at) the stark differences between privileged urban and disenfranchised provincial life, feels particularly timely in this moment when the pandemic has altered the norms of cosmopolitan living and sent many urbanites fleeing to the countryside. But That Time of Year is no comedy of manners; the headline of NDiaye’s story is not to satirize the crassness of rural newcomers so much as it is about how about how all her characters, when faced with their own specific varieties of isolation are, by force of nature, blind, muddled, incurious, and most of all suspended in their acquiescence.…It is [NDiaye’s] light, distant touch and the tradition of experimental writing that turns what should be satire into something more spare and thrilling.” —Abby Walthausen, The Believer

“What at first appears to be a Kafkaesque fable about insiders and outsiders quickly morphs into a metaphysical horror story about the bonds between the living and the dead … The novel shares some DNA with the Argentinian writer Samanta Schweblin’s Fever Dream in its embrace of the fantastic and as a haunting reinvention of the literary horror story … it left me eager to read more.” Chicago Review of Books

“That Time of Year is a thriller of unsettling quiet: about how to disappear into the crowd, to erase your otherness and melt into your surroundings.” —Kenyon Review

“A study in claustrophobia, a locked-room mystery of sorts, a ghost story without the ghosts, a parable about tourism and power: all of these describe Marie NDiaye’s slippery, mesmeric That Time of Year.” —Full Stop

“Utterly compelling in tone, plot, and style…this gorgeously eerie book will keep you holding your breath even past the end.” Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Weird, terrifying, and utterly original.” Book Riot (Best Books of 2020)

“At a little more than 100 pages, That Time of Year by Marie NDiaye might initially seem spare. The intriguing complexity, however, contained in her superb novel underscores again why she is one of France’s most lauded contemporary writers…NDiaye’s taut, noirish horror, complicated by Kafka-esque obstacles, is seamlessly translated into English by professor Jordan Stump…With adroit precision, NDiaye transforms Herman’s situation, his choices (or lack thereof), his complicity, his feeble attempts at rebellion, into a biting, brilliant exposé on class and privilege, entitlement and hypocrisy, power and control.” —Terry Hong, Shelf Awareness

“Compelling, inevitable, and, much like the village, easy to get lost in. That Time of Year is a hypnotic novel about the spell cast by a village on its inhabitants, willing and otherwise.” —Foreword Reviews

“A blend of psychological realism and the uncanny… That Time of Year is acutely attuned to the themes of our time. It echoes current conversations around entitlement and privilege and shows how those with money know little to nothing of the trials faced by the poor and working class. At a time in America when those with means are flocking from cities to ride out a pandemic in their country homes, setting up inevitable conflicts with locals, it is clear to me that it currently is That Time of Year, and an English version of NDiaye’s book couldn’t appear at a more important moment.” —Barrelhouse

“Fable-like…The book unfolds like a many-textured nightmare, throwing out several allegorical possibilities that refuse to settle into a single message. If we focus on Herman, it could be a horror story about a prideful cosmopolitan punished for his presumptuous treatment of the provincials; if we look at the town, it could be a statement on the shadow side of terms like ‘close-knit’ or ‘deeply-rooted.’” —Plough Quarterly

“Marie NDiaye is one of my favorite living writers and That Time of Year is yet another shape-shifting masterpiece. Here the disappearance of the protagonist’s family is not a mystery to be solved, but rather one that gradually opens a portal into social and psychological terror. NDiaye is a virtuoso of the haunted, the alienated, the submerged, the powerfully strange—and this new novel is as thrilling as it is profound.” —Laura van den Berg, author of I Hold a Wolf by the Ears and The Third Hotel

“If Kafka decided to join up with Jacques Tati to rewrite Shirley Jackson’s “The Summer People,” you might end up with something like NDiaye’s absurd and dryly comic novel about the perils of staying too long on vacation.  That Time of Year progresses with the fluid logic of a dream that, when you scratch its surface, reveals the image of a nightmare beneath.” —Brian Evenson, author of Song for the Unraveling of the World

“In the hands of a lesser novelist, the story of a missing mother and child becomes a tedious thriller. In Marie NDiaye’s hands, it becomes the catalyst for something much deeper—and stranger.” —Stephen Sparks, Point Reyes Books (Point Reyes, CA)

“A soggy, tilted dread permeates NDiaye’s quietly unsettling novel. Like a dream you can’t remember that leaves you feeling off for the rest of the day, NDiaye’s story of alienation, impersonal systems, and loss will haunt you long after you’ve read it. A great book, in a strange way, for fans of David Lynch, and an even better book, in a stranger way, for fans of My Sister the Serial Killer.—Josh Cook, Porter Square Books (Cambridge, MA)

“Thrillingly unsettling and grimly comical, Marie NDiaye stuns once again in this succinct novel that troubles our notions of belonging and asks what happens when we become alienated from ourselves.” —Emma Ramadan, Riffraff (Providence, RI)

“The underlying sinisterism which pervades so much of Marie NDiaye’s fiction is absolutely irresistible.…With That Time of Year, NDiaye expertly crafts another tale rich in eerie atmospherics.” —Jeremy Garber, Powell’s (Portland, OR)

“‘Night had fallen by the time the teacher made up his mind to go out in search of news.’ A first sentence for the books, no pun intended. At multiple points during my reading of this book I had to put it down and holler. Out loud! To no one at all. Just a pure expression of glee and awe at the sleek, swift brilliance of Marie NDiaye’s mind and Jordan Stump’s masterful work bringing this book to English… That Time of Year is a serrated, disquieting descent into separation in all its forms, and its particular violence when it takes place when we least expect it—and before we can realize that something is gone forever.” —Anna White Weber, White Whale Bookstore (Pittsburgh, PA)

“In the tradition of Kafka’s The Castle, Karinthy’s Metropole, and Buarque’s BudapestThat Time of Year by Marie NDiaye is about the necessity of adapting to one’s situation, however strange it may be. And this kind of reorientation seems especially fitting when we’re hunkered down in our homes, learning anew how to live some simulacrum of our lives in circumstances somewhere uncomfortably between indefinite vacation and alienated privation. NDiaye’s protagonist, Herman, is so flawed, so familiar, and so powerless that his disquiet resonates darkly with my own. Some of us have become ghosts of our former selves, like Herman’s wife. Some of us have found new citizenship in a dangerous world. Some of us are natives to this kind of precarity. Whichever describes you, there’s no novel I know so apropos of our current moment. This really couldn’t have been published at a better time.” —Jeff Waxman, The Bookstore at the End of the World 

“Marie NDiaye and her great English translator, Jordan Stump, bring us another unsettling, surprising and profound work of fiction. No one writes like NDiaye. She is a treasure!” —Lori Feathers, Interabang Books (Dallas, TX)

“I absolutely adore That Time of Year by Marie NDiaye. It is so deeply unsettling, surprising, fresh, original, creative, and horrifying in all the very best ways. The story of man who has lost his wife and child on the last day of their summer vacation in a remote French village is chilling, slanted and startling. I’m always looking for books that I feel like I’ve never read before and this nails it perfectly.” —Angela Spring, Duende District Bookstores (Washington D.C.)

“I highly recommend That Time of a Year by Marie NDiaye; translated by Jordan Stump. A psychological literary horror novella that felt like an episode of The Twilight Zone. A family stays on vacation an extra day and a nightmare ensues.” —Caitlin Luce Baker, Island Books (Mercer Island, WA)

“A nightmarish little novel about a Parisian man trapped in a picturesque village, searching for his missing wife and son. This book is eerie, surreal, and gripping.” —Rachel Schneck, Harvard Bookstore

“NDiaye is writing a literature both innovative and incredible.” —The New Republic

“[NDiaye’s] inspiration lies not in the real world but in nightmares.” —The New York Times

“NDiaye is a rare novelist.” —NPR

“[NDiaye] is an impressive stylist with a strong voice.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“If any contemporary European writer is on the verge of Ferrante-like recognition, it’s NDiaye.” —Flavorwire

was born in 1976 in Pithiviers, France. She is the author of around twenty novels, plays, collections of stories, and nonfiction books, which have been translated into numerous languages. She’s received the Prix Femina and the Prix Goncourt, France’s highest literary honor, and her plays are in the repertoire of the Comédie-Française.
Jordan Stump is one of the leading translators of innovative French literature. The recipient of numerous honors and prizes, he has translated books by Nobel laureate Claude Simon, Jean-Philippe Toussaint, and Eric Chevillard, as well as Jules Verne’s French-language novel The Mysterious Island. His translation of NDiaye’s All My Friends was shortlisted for the French-American Foundation Translation Prize.

The president broke into a spirited laugh, patting Herman’s knee under the table. But Herman’s dismay had waned the moment he heard the receptionist’s name. Moved, he looked at her, and Métilde smiled back with an air of genuine friendship.

“Yes, you’re going to help me,” Herman said to himself, “and then . . . ”

Flattered, happy, he was caught up in a sort of euphoria that made him want to talk to everyone around him, to explain himself, to earn their pity and esteem. When Charlotte came back and sat down, he leaned toward her and Métilde, and in a voice loud and clear enough to be heard by everyone in the room he recounted at length what had happened to his family, his failure at the gendarmerie, the idea he’d first had of going to see the mayor. All the while, he studied the two women’s faces respectfully turned toward his, their eyes attentive, their brows thoughtful. A flood of joy washed over him, and he forgot to be ashamed of it as he told them of Rose and his little boy. He didn’t think anyone had ever listened to him so closely, so patiently, with such consideration and good will. Everyone around him had fallen silent. Frozen in mid-bow, Charlotte’s mother pressed the salad bowl to her belly, as if in prayer, meditative, drinking in Herman’s words. The corners of Métilde’s mouth were delicately turned up in a caring little smile. Herman exulted in feeling so tragic: had anyone ever thought of him that way, had he ever, just once, moved someone? Then the thought of Rose turned abstract, supplanted by the intense pleasure of attracting the sympathy of the women around him, of holding their still unknown, obscure minds in his grip.

When he finished he glanced at the president. Alfred was contemplating him, leaning back in his chair. Herman couldn’t make out if he approved. But he was vaguely troubled, once again, by the strange, unpleasant sense of a syrupy wave of affection pouring from Alfred’s face, a face fleshy and severe as a watchful pasha’s, the moment Herman turned toward him, even briefly.

“Poor man,” his neighbor with the many pens remarked in a soft, melodious voice.