Obscure Flowers: Marie NDiaye with Kafka

The characters of contemporary French author Marie NDiaye are often described in botanical terms, and the heroine of her novel Ladivine refers to herself as an "obscure flower." What exactly is an obscure flower? Withdrawal into a kind of vegetal or mineral obscurity (if not oblivion) is the modus operandi of NDiaye's characters, who exist in a state of deep disadequation with their unpredictable, unhospitable, and Kafkaesque social worlds. However, this disappearing act is not the end of the story. Behind the blankness they display to their fellow humans, the strange behaviors they adopt bring them into a rare intimacy with the nonhuman—animal, vegetal, mineral—world.