The intriguing complexity...contained in her superb novel underscores again why she is one of France's most lauded contemporary writers ... Reminiscent of a Beckett play—NDiaye is also a notable playwright—this surreal narrative quickly devolves into a nightmarish fever dream. 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.
...she explores throughout her work questions of exile, disjuncture, and belonging, often in fantastic and narratively disjointed ways ... In That Time of Year, NDiaye dispenses information to the reader in a matter-of-fact tone that belies the unusual circumstances of the world in which the novel takes place ... 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.
...uncanny ... Herman’s story is 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.
... a thrilling new entry in NDiaye’s catalog in English ... combines elements she has been turning over and honing throughout her career ... NDiaye’s psychologically unnerving touch conjures, among others, Shirley Jackson.
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 ... pages all dripping with paranoia, tendrils of fog blurring the lines between reality and the uncanny ... the story unfolds with the thwarted urgency of a dream, rife with odd details and detours while its central mystery grows faint in the background. This unresolved tension lends the novel an anxious, foreboding energy; as the critic Amy Gentry once wrote of Helen Oyeyemi, NDiaye 'opens more parentheses than she closes' ... Like many other books published in 2020, That Time of Year feels eerily suited to our times. For one, the novel is an ideal quarantine read; clocking in at a brisk 130 pages, this atmospheric mystery can easily be devoured from cover to cover in a single rainy afternoon. But NDiaye’s tale is also a vivid portrait of ennui: the seductiveness and corrosiveness of boredom, the draining experience of being trapped in a single space, isolated from the routines and relationships of your life.
... assiduously translated ... One of NDiaye’s early texts, it serves as a site of play for the writer’s longtime interests, from class mobility and assimiliation 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 ... shows us an earlier NDiaye, one who is still figuring out what she wants to do. Instead of committing to a single theme, she flirts with several ideas ... NDiaye plays with race here and through the rest of the novel in a way that piques interest, and her language, taut and specific, invites multiple interpretations of its meaning. Are Herman and Alfred using different senses of the word? Rather than being restricted to a particular identity, race becomes a stand-in for difference itself ... There are many points at which it is clear That Time of Year is an early work. The narrative gaps feel less intentional, more clumsy than they do in NDiaye’s later novels. Such moments don’t completely distract from this eerie novel, which is part ghost story and part allegory of class and racial difference. And in the end, the narrative, even with its flaws, delivers a haunting lesson about the ease with which a panicked outsider can be lulled into complacency and inaction.
There are also glimmers of Nikolai Gogol’s grotesque works here, like the increasingly deranged speech at the novel’s end by a taxi driver missing his nose. Ultimately, despite the echoes of other writers, this misty nightmare is particular to NDiaye—and it is all the more compelling for its unexpected connections.
... a suspenseful, surreal, and nightmarish novel ... a thriller of unsettling quiet: about how to disappear into the crowd, to erase your otherness and melt into your surroundings ... the novel’s gigantic sense of dread is woven largely by way of its masterful and restrained prose. NDiaye tells Herman’s tale with a stark frankness that allows the reader to notice when specific words are repeated, developing meanings unique to the text ... Even the very structure of the book helps construct its sense of unease ... As Herman struggles to keep his family in sight while he is lured by the siren song of the village, That Time of Year emerges as a tale of pastoral idyll gone horribly wrong.
...a blistering critique of bourgeois French society ... eerie ... Ndiaye pulls off a fascinating group portrait of the town, capturing the shifts in behavior of each character in relation to the power they hold or are beholden to ... a powerful chronicle of the failure of one man’s will.
Utterly compelling in tone, plot, and style, this slim, sleek story has a veneer of sly sophistication that belies the horror of malignancy within the village and Herman himself ... Part ghost story, part satiric horror, this gorgeously eerie book will keep you holding your breath even past the end.