Condé wins al­ter­na­tive to lit No­bel

Santa Fe New Mexican - - LOCAL& REGION - By An­nal­isa Quinn

Guade­lou­pean writer Maryse Condé won The New Academy Prize in Lit­er­a­ture, a new prize es­tab­lished by a group of more than 100 Swedish cul­tural fig­ures as a sub­sti­tute for this year’s No­bel in lit­er­a­ture, which was not awarded for the first time since 1949 be­cause of a sex­ual mis­con­duct scan­dal.

The New Academy Prize is ac­com­pa­nied by 1 mil­lion kro­nor, or around $112,000. The No­bel prizewin­ner would have re­ceived 9 mil­lion kro­nor from the Swedish Academy, which in­tends to award the prize next year.

Condé is the au­thor of I, Ti­tuba: Black Witch of Salem, a his­tor­i­cal novel about a black woman con­demned dur­ing the Salem witch tri­als; Segu, set in 18th-cen­tury West Africa; Wind­ward Heights ,a Caribbean reimag­in­ing of Wuther­ing Heights; and other emo­tion­ally com­plex nov­els that reach across his­tory and cul­tures.

“It is im­pos­si­ble to read her nov­els and not come away from them with both a sad­der and more ex­hil­a­rat­ing un­der­stand­ing of the hu­man heart, in all its secret in­tri­ca­cies, its con­tra­dic­tions and marvels,” Howard Frank Mosher wrote in his re­view of I, Ti­tuba for the New York Times in 1992.

Born the last of eight chil­dren in 1937 in Pointe-à-Pitre, Condé wanted to be a writer since en­coun­ter­ing Emily Brontë’s Wuther­ing Heights as a child.

“I de­cided that one day I would write a book as pow­er­ful and beau­ti­ful,” she said in an email. Nonethe­less, she did not pub­lish her first novel un­til she was nearly 40, she said, be­cause, “I didn’t have con­fi­dence in my­self and did not dare present my writ­ing to the out­side world.”

This prize, she wrote, will be “good for my morale.”

The two other fi­nal­ists were Bri­tish fan­tasy and comic book au­thor Neil Gaiman and Viet­namese-Cana­dian novelist Kim Thuy Ly Thanh, who pub­lishes as Kim Thuy.

The New Academy Prize in Lit­er­a­ture dif­fers from the No­bel in sev­eral ways: In­stead of the No­bel’s clois­tered de­lib­er­a­tions, the New Academy prize was se­lected by a mix of li­brar­i­ans, read­ers and judges.

A fourth fi­nal­ist was Haruki Mu­rakami, the only one of the four con­sid­ered a reg­u­lar No­bel con­tender (ac­cord­ing to bet­ting web­sites — of­fi­cial nom­i­na­tions are kept secret for 50 years). Mu­rakami dropped out, ac­cord­ing to the prize’s web­page, be­cause he wished “to con­cen­trate on his writ­ing, far from me­dia at­ten­tion.”


Maryse Condé, an au­thor from Guade­loupe liv­ing in Paris, ap­pears via vide­olink Fri­day af­ter she was awarded the Al­ter­na­tive No­bel lit­er­a­ture prize in Stock­holm City Li­brary in Swe­den.

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