A classic of queer literature that’s as electrifying today as it was when it originally appeared in 1982, On a Woman’s Madness tells the story of Noenka, a courageous Black woman trying to live a life of her choosing. When her abusive husband of just nine days refuses her request for divorce, Noenka flees her hometown in Suriname, on South America’s tropical northeastern coast, for the capital city of Paramaribo. Unsettled and unsupported, her life in this new place is illuminated by the passionate romances of the present but haunted by society’s expectations and her ancestral past.
Translated into sensuous English for the first time by Lucy Scott, Astrid Roemer’s intimate novel—with its tales of plantation-dwelling snakes, rare orchids, and star-crossed lovers—is a blistering meditation on the cruelties we inflict on those who disobey. Roemer, the first Surinamese winner of the prestigious Dutch Literature Prize, carves out postcolonial Suriname in barbed, resonant fragments. Who is Noenka? Roemer asks us. “I’m Noenka,” she responds resolutely, “which means Never Again.”