Marie NDiaye is the first black woman to win France’s top literary prize (Prix Goncourt)

Today French-Senegalese writer Marie NDiaye (42) won France's top literary prize, the Prix Goncourt, for her novel Trois femmes puissantes [Three Strong Women], a novel on family, betrayal and the hellish ordeal of illegal migration from Africa. She is the black woman to win the prize.

Marie NDiaye was born in France, she is the daughter of a French mother and a Senegalese father. NDiaye was raised by her French mother in Pithiviers, a provincial town south of Paris. After her father returned to Senegal, she did not travel to Africa until she was in her 20s. She now lives in Berlin with her three children

Marie NDiaye is the sister of historian Pap NDiaye.

Marie NDiaye: “I grew up in a world that was 100 percent French. My African roots don’t mean much, except that people know of them because of the color of my skin and my name,” she said recently.

“I don’t represent anything or anyone,” she said. “I have met many French people raised in Africa who are more African than I am.”

While she rages at the discrimination still faced by French blacks, NDiaye says she has been sheltered by her writer career.

“I have always had a quite special, marginal life, the life of a writer lucky enough not to have to ask anyone for anything,” she said.(AP)

It’s great achievement for a black woman in France, and it’s also a sign that France is changing. But there’s one thing about Marie N Diaye that leaves me puzzled. She says her African roots don’t mean much to her, but she does write about Dakar and the black migration experience. Apparently roots does matter.

Trois femmes puissantes [Three Strong Women] is the book beneath the French media’s spotlight this rentrée. Three, tenuously linked narratives. At their heart, three women who say no.

Forty year-old Norah arrives at the home of her father in Africa. An egocentric tyrant, he has now become silent and bulimic, and spends his nights perched in a tree in the courtyard. Why did he ask her to come? The answer, Norah discovers, is worse than she could have ever imagined.

Fanta, who used to teach French in Dakar, had to follow her partner, Rudy, to France. Here, Rudy proves incapable of providing her with the rich and joyful life she deserves. He remains under the morbid influence of his mother, who dedicates her life to convincing her entourage of the existence of angels.

Destabilised, Rudy wanders through an angry reality, while Fanta, by his side, is a rock. Khady Demba is a young African widow. Penniless, she tries to find her distant cousin, Fanta, in France. The long journey of emigration she pursues will be punctuated with unspeakable suffering. (source: French book news)

Read: Black woman wins Prix Concourt for the first time


  1. Interestingly, she co-wrote the screenplay for French auteur, Claire Denis' latest film, "White Material," which was shot entirely in Cameroon. I believe the story was solely N'Diaye's, and it was adapted with the assistance of Denis.

    I saw the film in September - in short, in what was likely a nod to Robert Mugabe’s expropriation of land from white Zimbabwean farmers, the story is centered on a white French woman, living in Cameroon, matriarch of a wealthy white French family that owns lots of land, but is being forced to give up the land, leave and return to France.

    I liked the film. But I've always been a fan of Denis' work.


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