With Assembly (Assembly), Natasha Brown signs an even more eloquent first novel since she denounces the reality behind the deceptive appearances of meritocracy and assimilation (even when one was born here), and the price it costs on a personal. By recalling, if need be, that Great Britain still has in its grip “land seized during his exploits of the twentieth century”which she continued to exploit.
The narrator ofAssembly is a young black British woman. Who worked tirelessly to enter a prestigious university, graduate and get a job in the City. Because she is who she is and must be able to face any hardship, she was able to put aside what was needed to buy an apartment.
Fear of heights
At the bank where she works, one of her missions is to testify – in front of students, during women’s round tables or recruitment fairs – of a career that is “a real inspiration”. “Diversity must be seen. How many women, how many girls have I lied to?” Ultimately, there is always a moment when a look, an attitude, a word turns out to be openly racist. “I am everything I was told to become. That’s not enough.”
Even in his romantic relationship, nothing is obvious. Coming from a wealthy family, her boyfriend has unfortunate reflexes despite the love he has for her. At the time when the young woman joins him in the family home, in the countryside, where her in-laws (ambivalent against her) are preparing to celebrate their wedding anniversary with great pomp, she is seized with vertigo. Is another “success” necessary? Isn’t it time for her to redefine her life according to her own criteria and not those that society imposes on her?
Over the pages, one certainty had become less and less avoidable: she is tired and exhausted of fighting against the current. To learn to always conform to what is expected of her, to imitate, to build an acceptable facade. “Their culture becomes a parody on my own body.” Not only is she not herself, but she lives in constant fear of missteps, of error: reaching this degree of success does not protect her in any way, in her private life or at work. “Every decision, every meeting, every report. There are no successes, only temporarily avoided failures.”
Across the Channel, the publication of this acerbic, sharp monologue, written on the bone and driven with a beating drum, in which a healthy anger pulsates, created a real explosion. After studying mathematics at Cambridge, Natasha Brown worked for ten years in the banking sector. It is a sensational entry into literature that she offers herself with this Assembly which reveals a point of view as essential as it is unusual. All while not hesitating to offer style variations. The rest will tell if this audacious start keeps its promises.
-> ★ ★ ★ ★ Natasha Brown | Assembly | novel | translated from English by Jakuta Alikavazovic | Grasset, 152 pp., €17, digital version €12
“At my side, asleep, he is as shapeless as water. The anxieties of the day do not disturb him at all. His breathing is regular. With him, I have become more tolerable to the Lous and Marricks of this world. That he accepts me, encourages them to do the same. His presence testifies in my favor, assures them that I am the kind of diversity that they need. In return, I offer him a certain progressive credibility. I wipe out some of his pots policies of sons of good, very good families. I am consolidating his position, left of center.”