Maryse Condé. Photo: RFI

News bulletins, print media, the most varied online circles, including many digital social networks, announced the news: the playwright and narrator born on the island of Guadeloupe in 1937, Maryse Condé, was awarded The New Academy Prize announced by the Swedish academy, paradoxically, on October 12, 2018. The newly created international award is replacing the Nobel Prize in Literature this year, and its creators have referred to it as “the Alternative Nobel.”

Alternative or not, it is a well-deserved prize that recognizes the rightful place of a writer whose literary excellence, inserted in the most refined tradition of French literature, explores and includes in her literary universe the Creole linguistic experience, so as to install in the imagination of the ordinary reader the awareness of an insular identity forged throughout history. It can be said that history always surfaces in Maryse Condé’s work, without capital letters, sometimes reproduced, and, in many cases questioned.

Patrick Chamoiseau and Raphaël Confiant, in their book Lettres créoles (2005), point out that having lived in the Guinea of Sekou Touré, the legend of Africa becomes more than palpable in Maryse’s famous trilogy that begins with Ségou: Les murailles de terre (1984), which refers to the history of the former empire of Mali during the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries, and ends with the return “crossing mangroves” to Guadeloupe in 1989.

However, her enjoyable and powerful writing takes her to the heights of a formal excellence, where gender awareness is vital and distinguishes her from the authors of other classics, such as Aimé Césaire, Édouard Glissant, and Emily Brontë.

Maryse Condé’s unique literary expression - covering almost all genres - is associated with the emergence of women’s writing and a style forged, with great splendor, between the 1970s and 90s in the French Antilles, alongside another great Guadeloupean, Simone Schwartz-Bart (1938), and later Gisele Pineau (1956), who was a distinguished participant in the 2017 International Book Fair in Havana.

The three authors, winners at different times of the Prix Carbet of the Caribbean, founded by Édouard Glissant in 1990, form part of the canon that Haitian Marie Chauvet (1916-1973) inaugurated, and which has been continued by her compatriot Marie Célie Agnant (1953), based in the exiled Haitian community in the Canadian city of Montreal.

In November 2010, the Casa de las Américas dedicated its prestigious Author’s Week to Maryse Condé. From the beautiful Guadeloupean district of Montebello, the writer participated alongside her husband, British translator Richard Philcox.

The island of Guadeloupe has two Nobel Laureates - Saint-John Perse, in 1960 - and now Maryse Condé, in the beautiful fall of 2018. The 2018 edition of the Prix Carbet will take place precisely in Guadeloupe, under the auspices of the legendary figure of Simone Schwartz-Bart.
The joy and satisfaction at this news are as immense as they are difficult to describe. Welcome to the Nobel Prize, or whatever they want to call it, Maryse Condé, an extraordinary figure of world literature.