A new victory for Senegalese and African literature as writer Mouhamed Mbougar Sarr is named winner of The Goncourt 2021 prize. The Goncourt, the most prestigious French literary prize, was awarded on Wednesday to Sarr, who at 31 years old becomes the first writer from sub-Saharan Africa to be honored by this prize for his book “‘The Most Secret Memory of Men”. Sarr has been applauded for his elegant literary style, creating a labyrinthine ode to literature that embraces France, Senegal, 20th-century history and the artistic conundrum of plagiarism.

L’Express magazine said the award crowned “the revelation of the literary year”, a “shining proof of the vitality and universality of the French language”. Le Monde said the “impressive ambition and stunning energy” of Sarr’s novel “carried all before it”. The decision comes amid an increasingly bitter culture war in France in the run-up to next year’s presidential elections, with the far-right polemicist Éric Zemmour recently calling for a ban on “non-French” names such as Muhammad.

“I feel, quite simply, enormous joy,” said Mbougar Sarr, 31, who is the youngest winner of the Goncourt since 1976. The eldest in a family of seven boys, the son of a doctor, he grew up 100 miles from Dakar before moving to France to study literature.

As the novel’s protagonist goes in search of an elusive and disgraced author, the young author has revealed that he found himself fascinated by an equally mysterious writer. Malian writer Yambo Ouologuem was dogged by accusations of plagiarism in the 1970s and disappeared from the literary scene. Sarr has drawn on his own quest for knowledge about Ouologuem for this award-winning account.

The Prix Goncourt is worth just €10 but guarantees renown and massive book sales. Previous winners, who include Marcel Proust, André Malraux, Simone de Beauvoir and Marguerite Duras, have seen novels rack up sales of 400,000 copies. Last year’s winner, Hervé Le Tellier, sold more than a million. The first Black winner of the Prix Goncourt, in 1921, was René Maran, whose early childhood was spent in Martinique.

By AlizeLaVie  11/03/2021 Sources News Agency