Like author Linda Lê, the young woman who narrates this novel is from Vietnam and is a writer, a “dirty foreigner writing in French.” The narrator has distanced herself not only from Vietnamese society but also from her family. Her story is an exercise in clear-eyed fury revealing three generations of a cursed family. The grandfather was a lunatic the family locked away and declared dead to avoid shame; the father is a failed artist and humiliated cuckold; the mother is a simpering beauty consumed with lust; the uncle is declared insane because of his incestuous love for his sister, who hanged herself. The narrator, on the verge of a profound depression ever since her mother told her she was illegitimate, alternates her story with her uncle’s journal. In an acid style burning with compressed lyricism and savage irony, these parallel monologues sketch misfortune’s family tree.
Linda Lê, who traveled at age fourteen from Saigon to France with a wave of “boat people,” is one of the leading young novelists on France’s brave new literary scene. Slander is Lê’s fifth—and most celebrated—novel.
Esther Allen is the translator, with Monique Chefdor, of Blaise Cendrars’s Modernities and Other Writings (Nebraska 1992).
1996 French-American Foundation Translation Prize, sponsored by the Florence Gould Foundation & French-American Foundation, honorable mention