Maryse Condé has won the New Prize in Literature, a one-time award created by the Swedish arts community to fill the void left by the Nobel Prize for Literature, which is on hiatus after a scandal-ridden year.
The prize is worth one million kronor (approx. $145,455 Cdn). The money for the prize was raised through a public campaign.
Condé is an award-winning fiction writer from the French Caribbean archipelago Guadeloupe. Her novels explore the impact of colonialism on the world and the conservation of culture within colonized countries. Condé’s books include Victoire: My Mother’s Mother, Segu, Who Slashed Celanire’s Throat? and I, Tituba.
“Maryse Condé is a grand author, her authorship belongs to world literature,” the jury said in a citation.
Condé beat out Montreal, Que. novelist Kim Thúy and British fantasy writer Neil Gaiman for the New Prize. The fourth finalist, Japanese writer Haruki Murakami, withdrew himself from eligibility earlier this fall.
“I m very happy and proud of this prize,” Condé said in a video statement translated from French. “Please let me share it with my friends and my family, but most of all with the people of Guadeloupe, who will be thrilled and touched seeing me receive this prize. We are such a small country, only mentioned when there are hurricanes or earthquakes… Now we are happy to be recognized for something else.”
The New Prize winner was announced at City Library in Stockholm. Unlike the Nobel Prize, which is highly secretive in its selection process, the New Prize took a more transparent approach.
It began with a longlist of 47 writers, put forth by librarians across Sweden. From there, a worldwide public vote narrowed the longlist down to a shortlist of four. More than 30,000 people participated in the vote. A jury consisting of Swedish literary experts Ann Pålsson, Lisbeth Larsson, Peter Stenson and Gunilla Sandin chose the winner. The prize money was raised by public donations.
The Nobel Prize in Literature is due to return in 2019 and will name two winners.