Mohamed Mbougar Sarr, Abdulrazak Gurnah, Boubacar Boris Diop… These Africans who made the literary year – Jeune Afrique

Mohamed Mbougar Sarr : Goncourt

Mohamed Mbougar Sarr, Prix Goncourt 2021, in Paris, at his publisher. © Bruno Lévy for JA

With The most secret memory of menthe young Senegalese became the first author from sub-Saharan Africa to win the prestigious Goncourt Prize. A book in which, over nearly 450 pages, the hero, Diégane, goes in search of TC Elimane. The latter, author of Labyrinth of the Inhuman, passed out in the wild after being accused of plagiarism. The plot is a reference to the story of Yambo Ouologuem, a Malian author of the 1960s who was walled in silence following identical grievances against his book, The duty of violenceRenaudot Prize in 1968.

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Prix ​​Goncourt 2021: Mohamed Mbougar Sarr, literature and life

The Goncourt is not the only French award for which the 31-year-old writer – the youngest winner in the history of the famous prize – was in the running this year. He was also among the authors selected for the Renaudot, the Medicithe Inrocks prize or the French Academy’s Grand Prix du roman.

Abdulrazak Gurnah: the Nobel

Abdulrazak Gurnah, Nobel Prize in Literature, in London, October 8, 2021. © Neil Hall /EPA/MAXPPP

Abdulrazak Gurnah, Nobel Prize in Literature, in London, October 8, 2021. © Neil Hall / EPA / MAXPPP

Since its creation in 1901, the Nobel Prize for Literature has largely forgotten African authors. Abdulrazak Gurnah, which was awarded this year, is only the fifth of a very short list. The 72-year-old Tanzanian author was honored for the body of work he started in 1987 with Memory of departure. Born in 1948 in Zanzibar, he fled Tanzania in 1968 to flee the persecutions that targeted the Muslim minority.

If he has lived for half a century in the United Kingdom, the author, also of British nationality, claims loud and clear his African roots. “If you wake me up at 3 a.m. asking me where I am from, I know what I will answer: “I am from Zanzibar.” Maybe I’ll even tell you in Swahili if you understand it, despite more than fifty years in England! “, he slipped to the French newspaper The worldin one of the few interviews he has given to the press since he formally received his award – it was last December 10 and, pandemic requires, during a small committee ceremony organized in London.

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Goncourt, Nobel, Booker Prize… The reward from the dominant to the dominated

Praised for his “empathetic and uncompromising approach to the effects of colonialism as well as the fate of refugees torn between cultures and continents”, he is best known for his novel Paradise (1994). He is the author of many books – Near the sea (2006), and Farewell Zanzibar (2017) – most of which have won prestigious international awards.

Damon Galgut : the Booker

When he received his award in early November, Damon Galgut insisted he accepted it for “all the stories that have been told and those that have not”, and wanted to dedicate it to writers, recognized or not, “of this remarkable continent”. In The Promisethe novel that won him the Booker Prize, the South African recounts the slow dislocation of a family of white farmers, from the end of apartheid to the presidency of Jacob Zuma. “A dense book, with historical and metaphorical significance,” hailed historian Maya Jasanoff, president of the Booker jury.

The only downside, according to the author, is the lack of consideration given by the South African authorities to this international recognition. “There was not a word, not even a mini-tweet from the Ministry of Arts and Culture,” he regretted a few weeks after receiving his award. “At best it’s a sign that they didn’t like the book. But it’s probably more the fact that they don’t know.

David Diop : (the other) Booker

The writer David Diop in Paris, in September 2018. © JOEL SAGET/AFP

The writer David Diop in Paris, in September 2018. © JOEL SAGET/AFP

The Franco-Senegalese writer was awarded the International Booker Prize. This is the first time since its creation in 2005 that a French-speaking person has received this prize which, unlike the classic Booker Prize, is open to non-English-speaking authors. David Diop received it for the very poignant soul brothertranslated into the language of Shakespeare in 2018, which recounts the inner struggle and the murderous drift of Alfa Ndiaye, a Senegalese skirmisher confronted with the unspeakable horrors of trench warfare.

A specialist in 18th century French literature, the author also teaches French-language literature from black Africa. For Frère d’âmes, he had made the choice, assumed, of subjectivity. “I came across a passage ofAmkoullel, the Fulani child, of Amadou Hampâté Bâ, according to which certain effects of the Senegalese skirmishers of the First World War would be kept somewhere in Bamako, he explained. I didn’t go there, I preferred to imagine the story of the war seen as if broken through through the eyes of a soldier. I wanted to go towards the greatest possible intimacy through the stream of consciousness of the character. »

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Senegal: David Diop confronts the France of the Enlightenment with slavery

In an interview given last November to Young Africathe author – who published this year The door of the journey of no return – also explained how this award was a turning point in his career. “I did not measure, before arriving among the finalists, the importance of this award. (..) I realized that it opened to me, thanks to the excellent translation of the poetess Anna Moschovakis with whom I share it, the doors of the Commonwealth. I now have readers from the former British colonial empire, especially Indians, who talk to me about it. »

Boubacar Boris Diop : the Neustadt

Boubacar Boris Diop. © Sylvain Cherkaoui / JA

Boubacar Boris Diop. © Sylvain Cherkaoui / JA

The Senegalese writer received the Neustadt on October 27th. An international literature prize often referred to as the “American Nobel”, which Boubacar Boris Diop was awarded for all of his work and which earned him the personal congratulations of Senegalese President Macky Sall.

Writer, teacher of letters, journalist, publishers, screenwriter, and even technical adviser to the Ministry of Culture, Boubacar Boris Diop is on all fronts. Besides his own works – Murambi, the last bones (2001), The Impossible Innocence (2004), The little ones of the monkey (2009)… – Boubacar Boris Diop is also involved in the fight to defend African national languages. In 2013, in collaboration with Felwine Sarr and Nafissatou Dia Diouf, he launched Jimsaan, a publishing house whose mission is to encourage African authors to be published in Africa by an African publisher… And among the latest publications – co-published with the French publisher Phillipe Rey – The most secret memory of menwhich earned Mbougar Sarr his Prix Goncourt.

Khalil Diallo: Ahmed Baba Prize

The literary year will have definitely been marked by West African authors. Khalil Diallo, a young Mauritanian writer living in Senegal, won the Ahmed Baba prize, awarded last March as part of La Rentrée littéraire du Mali, an event organized in Bamako. Awarded for his novel The Odyssey of the Forgottena fresco that follows the dangerous journey of West African migrants seeking exile in Europe, the 28-year-old author asserts forcefully: “literature is political”.

In a virulent column published the day after a shipwreck which caused the death of more than 140 Senegalese migrants, last November, he did not hesitate to challenge political leaders. “The young people who died at sea are not anonymous, and some of them were named Doudou, Lamine, Djiby. To call them by their first names, to name them is to give them back their humanity. The real cause of their death, the real violence that killed them, is political! he thundered then.

Chimanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in Lagos, December 21, 2019. © Andrew Esiebo for JA

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in Lagos, December 21, 2019. © Andrew Esiebo for JA

Last but not least, the unmissable Chimanda Ngozi Adichie. If she did not – this year – win any prizes on the international scene, the Nigerian essayist and novelist nevertheless marked the literary year with Notes on grief, so much does the story she delivers there resonate with the global context of the Covid-19 pandemic. She recounts the death of her father, taken in a few days to Nigeria, while she herself was thousands of kilometers away, in the United States. The author recounts the grief, then the anger, of not being able to pay a last tribute to the one who also acted as a mentor for her.

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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: “Africans don’t have the leaders they deserve”

At 43, Chimanda Ngozi Adichie has already produced a rich and complex body of work. After signing Purple Hibiscus at only 26 years old, and achieved international success with The Other Half of the Sun (2007) and Americana (2013), she hadn’t written a novel since, however, multiplying the essays that made her an emblematic figure of a certain postcolonial feminism.

With Notes on grief, long autobiographical short story, Chimanda Ngozi Adichie writes with a sense of urgency, of necessity. “I was so surprised by the grief that words failed me. However, words are what make me live, ”she confessed last November in an interview with the Figaro.

Last June, the one who, in an interview with Young Africa, claimed to have “been a feminist even before knowing what this word meant”, was at the heart of a virulent controversy. In question, a sentence pronounced in 2013 but which resurfaced on social networks, in which she refused to put women and trans women on the same level. Enough to trigger the ire of activists who criticized him for a position described as “retrograde”.

To the campaign of which she was the target, Chimanda Ngozi Adichie responded with a long text, “It is Obscene”, published on her site. His conclusion? “We have a generation of young people on social media who are so terrified of having bad opinions that they have deprived themselves of the opportunity to reflect, learn and of growing up. »

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Mohamed Mbougar Sarr, Abdulrazak Gurnah, Boubacar Boris Diop… These Africans who made the literary year – Jeune Afrique