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NDiaye becomes first black woman to win top French book award

In a historic first, French-Senegalese writer Marie NDiaye was declared the winner of the top French literary award, the Prix Goncourt, Monday, marking the first time a black woman has won the prize in its 106 year history.

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French-Senegalese writer Marie NDiaye was declared the winner of the Prix Goncourt, France’s top literary award Monday, marking the first time a black woman has won the prize in its 106 year history.

NDiaye won the 2009 Prix Goncourt for "Trois Femmes Puissantes" (Three Powerful Women) a novel narrated in a stream of consciousness mode, rich with flourishes of fantasy and symbolism.

"Trois Femmes Puissantes" is part of a trilogy, weaving the stories of three women whose lives straddle Africa and its former colonial rulers.

The Goncourt is the most eagerly awaited in a series of book awards announced during France’s annual two-week book prize season, which began last month.

Dating back to 1903, the Goncourt is long on prestige but famously short on monetary reward. The winner of France’s most prestigious prize takes home a pittance of only 10 euros, an amount set at the turn of the previous century.

It is awarded by the "Société littéraire des Goncourt" (Goncourt Literary Society), founded in 1900 in accordance with the wishes of French writer and publisher Edmond de Goncourt and informally known as the "Académie Goncourt", and guarantees the author a spot in the best-seller lists in a nation of avid readers.

Last year it went to Afghan writer and refugee Atiq Rahimi's "The Patience Stone", and in 2006 to Jonathan Littell, an American who writes in French, for "The Kindly Ones", an epic tale of wartime Europe seen through the eyes of an unrepentant Nazi officer.

NDiaye victory makes her not only the first black woman to win the prestigious prize, but also the first female laureate in the past decade.

 

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