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The Cheffe

The Cheffe

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In paperback, by Marie Ndiaye

Winner of the 2020 National Translation Award in Prose

Continuing her tradition of writing provocative fiction about fascinating women, here Marie NDiaye gives us the story of a Great Female Chef—a chef who was celebrated as one of the best in a world where men dominate, and the way that her pursuit of love, pleasure, and gustatory delights helped shape her life and career. Told from the perspective of her former assistant (and unrequited lover), now an aged chef himself, here is the story of a woman's quest to the front of the kitchen—and the extraordinary journey she takes along the way.
“Marie NDiaye is so intelligent, so composed, so good, that any description of her work feels like an understatement. . . . There’s the evenness of her prose, eminently polished, deliciously rhythmic, that seems to glide over the violence underneath. . . . Who is this writer? And how did she get to be so good? . . . The Cheffe is a powerful reminder that any act of creation requires an act of patronage; there is no pure creation without the audience that consumes it.”
—Madeleine Schwartz, The New York Review of Books

“A sensual portrayal of the indispensable place of talented cooks in the world of the French bourgeoisie. NDiaye’s heroine doesn’t wield overt power over this class, but instead commits herself to delivering savory before sugar, invention and technique before pleasure.” —Ankita Chakraborty, The New York Times Book Review
“An arresting portrait of a self-effacing genius.” —The New Yorker (Briefly Noted)
“NDiaye utilizes the relationships between characters to observe the wide scope of love in our lives, how it drives us, and where…a story about impressions, ideas, and the extreme subtleties of human relationships.” —Megan Otto, Chicago Review of Books
“Luminous. . . . Any woman who has ever allowed her career to take precedence, even for an hour, over her offspring, will cringe in understanding.” —Bethanne Patrick, The Washington Post
The Cheffe is so gracefully reserved that her story is equal parts alluring and infuriating. Not knowing usually is. . . . Cooking, serving, and enjoying food is its own method of communication.” —Francesca Giacco, Guernica
“Like a great meal, The Cheffe leaves us pleasantly sated but still wanting more.” —Thane Tierney, BookPage
“[A] portrait of a woman comfortable in her own skin, in . . . hypnotic prose that stalks and surrounds its subject as though hypnotizing it.” —Eric Chevillard, Music & Literature no.8