David Diop: “I learned to live before writing”

Born in 1966 in Paris to a Senegalese father and a French mother, David Diop spent his childhood and adolescence in Dakar before returning to France for his higher education. After a thesis on the intellectual origins of political philosophy in theEncyclopedia of Diderot and D’Alemberthe became a lecturer in 18th century literature at the University of Pau, a profession he still exercises.

A double cultural sensitivity

In 2012, her first novel was published 1889 Universal Attraction. Six years later, David Diop signs his international success with the publication of soul brother (published by Seuil) which won the Prix Goncourt des lycéens in 2018, the Prix Kourouma in 2019 and the Booker Prize in 2021. The Gate of the Journey of No Return – his 3rd novel – will be published in 2021. Three novels, on certainly different subjects but which nevertheless share common roots between France and Senegal. It is these two cultural sensitivities – which constantly interpenetrate – that are at the origin of the author’s inspiration. Because for David Diop, writing is in a way giving an account of these incessant exchanges between “Here and there”.

“I apprehend French culture not in relation to a knowledge that I would have of this culture, of having lived in France for a long time, but also through the Senegalese prism. The reverse is also true” David Diop

David Diop
David Diop

© Radio France

It was at 46 that the author wrote his first book. A canonical age but which bears witness to a real intellectual process: “I gave myself permission to write quite late, I learned to live before writing”. If David Diop shows a certain modesty by having trouble considering himself as a writer, despite the immense success of soul brotherhe sees in writing, a real “ritual”.

“For me, it’s really an important moment to have understood that what I was writing, and which corresponded to the image that I had in mind, did not reach me better than with a pen and a sheet” .

Between fiction and reality…

Influenced by authors such as Franz Kafka Where Albert Cohen, David Diop delights in putting on his double hat as writer and teacher. The great authors not being his only source of inspiration, he also happens to dream through the footnotes of university writings.

“I like basically, once I’ve written a few footnotes, let my imagination run free, I think the one and the other are linked. The university research work has given me provided a methodology for finding information. That’s what I like about this job. But at the same time, I get rid of footnotes when I write fiction, I free myself from duty to tell the truth or to tell the truth exactly”.

Juggling between the world of fiction and that of reality, that’s where David Diop’s talent lies…

Masterclass led by Chloë Cambreling and recorded live at the Théâtre de la Ville – Espace Cardin in Paris.

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David Diop: “I learned to live before writing”