Hilda, by Marie Ndiaye
Hilda discusses modern slavery through the cruel relationship between Mrs Lemarchand and her domestic worker, Hilda. A stunning and disturbing play.
A precocious author
Born in 1967 in Loiret to a French mother and a Senegalese father, Marie NDiaye now lives in Berlin, Germany.
The author started writing at the age of 12. Her first novel, As for the Rich Future (“Quant au riche avenir”), was published in 1985, when she was just 17.
To date, Marie NDiaye has written 16 novels and collections of short stories, centred primarily on themes of family, including Rosie Carpe, which won the Femina Prize in 2001 and Three Powerful Women (“Trois femmes puissantes”), which won the Prix Goncourt in 2009. She also writes for the stage and has penned nine plays, including Daddy Must Eat (“Papa doit manger”) (2003), which is part of the Comédie-Française repertory.
An absent employee
Published in 1999, Hilda deals with the difficult and perverse relationship between master and servant. The play features three characters: Madame Lemarchand, a bourgeois housewife, Hilda, her employee, to whom she entrusts the care of her home and her children, and Franck, the father of the family.
Hilda is not given the right to speak, rather the Lemarchand couple discuss their employee’s fate. For her part, she exists only through her employers and finds herself deprived of all humanity.
Hilda was originally a radio play written for Radio France.
Marie Ndiaye readily admits to following in the footsteps of Franz Kafka, William Faulkner and even Paul Bowles.
The author is interested in what goes on behind closed doors and in the family – two worlds she treats as places of loss, tension and destruction – and in vampires, here represented by the character of Madame Lemarchand, a person who “sucks the blood” of her servant, Hilda.
An international resonance
Marie NDiaye is an internationally renowned writer and each of her books has been published around the world. Hilda is no exception, and the play has been translated into Portuguese, Greek, Spanish, Czech, Italian, Russian, English and German.
After being performed in France, notably at the Théâtre du Rond-Point in Paris, Hilda was first performed in English at the Zeum Theatre in San Francisco in 2005, then at the 59E59 theatre in New York and the Studio Theatre in Washington DC the same year. It was produced by the U.S. Theater Conservatory and staged by the artistic director Carey Perloff.
Hilda has been translated into Portuguese with the support of the Institut français.
Through its translation support programmes, the Institut français participates in the global dissemination of French-language literature.