Senegalese author Mohamed Mbougar Sarr has been named the winner of the Goncourt Prize, France’s most prestigious literary award, for his novel, “The Most Secret Memory of Men” (La plus secrète mémoire des hommes).
Mohamed Mbougar Sarr is only 31 years old but he was the critics’ favourite among the nominees. He is the first sub-Saharan African to win France’s most prestigious literary award.
“I feel so much joy,” he said at the Parisian restaurant where the awards are announced.
The winning novel is his fifth and was lauded for its mysterious characters and style of writing.
Alice McCrum, the programmes manager at the American Library in Paris, called the novel “intellectually knotty”, remarking on its “labyrinthian construction”.
“It’s at once a police investigation but also an investigation into genealogy, politics, aesthetics – as well as questions like, what does it mean to be a writer and to write? This is really a book critic’s book,” she said in an interview with FRANCE 24.
Mbougar Sarr, the son of a Senegalese doctor, had been studying African literature at a French university.
“With this young author, we have returned to the fundamentals of the Goncourt,” said the Goncourt Academy’s secretary-general Philippe Claudel, noting that more works could be expected from the young winner.
Goncourt president Didier Decoin said he read Mbougar Sarr’s work in one sitting, calling it “a hymn to literature”.
The jury of seven men and three women only needed one round of voting to crown him the winner.
Laureates take home just €10 in prize money. The award, however, traditionally guarantees the sale of hundreds of thousands of books.
© FRANCE 24 with AFP