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Mohamed Mbougar Sarr becomes first sub-Saharan writer to win France's Goncourt Prize

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Senegalese writer Mohamed Mbougar Sarr poses during a photo session in Paris on September 17, 2021
Senegalese writer Mohamed Mbougar Sarr poses during a photo session in Paris on September 17, 2021   -   Copyright  JOEL SAGET/AFP
By Euronews  with AFP

Senegalese writer Mohamed Mbougar Sarr has become the first author from Subsaharan Africa to win the French Goncourt Prize with his novel 'The most secret memory of men' ('La plus secrète mémoire des Hommes').

"I am obviously very happy, very honoured," the 31-year-old said. "The Goncourt Academy sends a very strong signal to many people, first of all to the French literary world, of course, but also to all members of the French-speaking world."

BERTRAND GUAY/AFP
Senegalese novelist Mohamed Mbougar Sarr poses for the press after being awarded with the Prix Goncourt literary prize in Paris, Nov 3 2021BERTRAND GUAY/AFP

Described by the French publisher Philippe Rey as "a love song for literature and its timeless power", the prizewinning novel is centred on a scandalous text published in the 1930s. A quest ensues that faces off Africa and the West in relief against the background of Colonialism.

The winner of the Goncourt Prize receives a symbolic cheque of 10 euros but a guarantee that their novel will be published in thousands of copies. Previous winners include Marguerite Duras in 1984 for the novel "the lover" which became a box office success.

A "vintage year" for African writers

Some literary experts have described 2021 as a vintage year for African writers.

In addition to last night's Goncourt win for Mohamed Mbougar Sarr, South African author Damon Galgut was awarded Britain's prestigious Booker Prize, and last month saw Tanzanian Abdulrazak Gurnah win the Nobel Literature Prize.

Is this the beginning of a new revolution? Euronews spoke to Fiction Editor Toby Lichtig.

Watch the full interview in the video player above.