“Assemblage”, Natasha Brown: revolt and renunciation
Narrator ofAssembly is a black British woman who, like the author, has been working for ten years in the banking sector, where she has just been promoted. She enjoys an excellent situation: she is equal “Money Outpouring”, and offers wealth management services. She is ultimately “everything we [lui] said to become. And he completes the picture of his economic and social success by seeing a nice boy from a (very) good family.
The financial industry was the only viable way for me to climb the ladder. I traded my life for a slice of middle-class comfort.
Assembly revolves around a short trip she takes to attend her very chic mother-in-law’s wedding anniversary – this “narrative peak in the story of [son] social rise ». A perfect opportunity for people to believe that they belong to the upper middle class; but an opportunity that, like others, risks being turned into a demonstration of existence “the variety you need”.
Since the narrator is a defector. The first defection of class, but also of race: “Born here, of parents who were born here, never lived anywhere else – never from here, though. » Her office life therefore inevitably resembles the life of a black woman: sometimes she is forcibly kissed, often questioned about her origins, when we discreetly do not complain about the “quotas” that would contribute to her success. And that must be what makes her so aware “the terrible cogs that turn and turn, beneath every achievement”including his own.
Generations of victims; hard work, even harder life. So much suffering, so much deprivation, so much – for this opportunity. For your own life. And I tried, I tried to live up to it. But after years of fighting, fighting against the current, I’m ready to give up. Let’s not fight anymore. Inhale water. I am exhausted. Maybe it’s time to end this story.
However, what this narrator without a name and age is above all aware of, when her environment constantly points this out to her and when microaggressions multiply, are two inextricable social flaws that silence her: she is a woman and she is black.
In language that is as frantic as it is poetic, Natasha Brown captures her character’s moment of existential change. And, like these others, we suffocate in the unbreathable yoke of apprehensions and compromises; we let ourselves be carried away, straight into the wall and at high speed.
While the author summarizes in a few pages the extent of her narrator’s legitimate revolt, she also allows the latter to slide toward renunciation; a renunciation that looks like an act of resistance.
But to continue, now that I have a choice, is to choose complicity.
Rare literary qualities, Assembly therefore, it stands out as a first novel as accurate as it is difficult.
Assembly, Natasha Brown, translated by Jakuta Alikavazovic, Grasset, 160 pages, €17. In bookstores from 11.01.2023.