French-born writer Marie NDiaye won France's top literary prize Monday for "Three Strong Women," her moving tale of the struggles of women in Europe and Africa.
French-born writer Marie NDiaye won France’s top literary prize Monday for “Three Strong Women,” her moving tale of the struggles of women in Europe and Africa.
NDiaye has written a dozen books, from novels to short story collections and plays, and in 2001 she won France’s Femina literary prize, awarded by a jury of women. She was born in 1967 in Pithiviers, south of Paris, to a French mother and a Senegalese father. NDiaye now lives in Berlin.
Her latest novel, “Trois femmes puissantes,” is the story of characters Norah, Fanta and Khadi’s fight to “preserve their dignity in the face of humiliations that life has inflicted,” according to her publisher Gallimard.
Norah is a French lawyer with roots in West Africa; Fanta is a Senegalese woman living in France; and Khadi is a young Senegalese woman who tries to immigrate illegally to Europe.
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“They are in very difficult situations,” NDiaye said in an interview with Mediapart news Web site. “(But) they have a hard inner core that is absolutely unbreakable.”
In accordance with tradition, the annual prize was announced at the Drouant restaurant in Paris, where the Goncourt jury meets each year to select the book it deems to be the best new work in French literature.
NDiaye was one of four authors whose books were up for the prize.
She told France-2 television she was “very happy to be a female recipient of the Goncourt.”
“I’ve been writing for 25 years, I’m no longer a beginner, so I have enough experience behind me to be able to take this all in with calm,” said NDiaye, who penned her first book while still a teenager.
Asked why she thought she’d won, NDiaye said she thought the judges had been moved by “a mix between the touching stories and the style.”
Although the prize comes only with a nominal purse, the 105-year-old Prix Goncourt guarantees literary acclaim and high sales for the winning author. Past recipients include Marcel Proust, Simone de Beauvoir and Marguerite Duras.
Last year, exiled Afghan writer Atiq Rahimi won the Goncourt prize for “Syngue Sabour,” a novel about the misery of a woman caring for a husband left brain-damaged by a war wound.