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Maryse Condé: Farewell to the Grand Lady of Letters

Cover of the book Ségou written by Maryse Condé on a blue gradient background

Maryse Condé, renowned French writer and winner of the alternative Nobel Prize in Literature in 2018, has passed away at the age of 90. Her passing marks the end of an era for literature that explores identity across the Atlantic, from her native Guadeloupe to Africa. Condé’s life and work were a relentless quest for her roots and identity. She leaves behind a rich and diverse literary legacy, extending well beyond her roots.

Settled in Gordes, in the Vaucluse, Madame Condé battled a degenerative disease without ever losing her sharpness of mind or her desire to express herself through writing. Segu (Ségou in French), her now famous saga, revealed her talent to the world, exploring the deep ties between Africa and the Caribbean. The writer was also a keen observer of global upheavals, while remaining rooted in her cultural concerns, seeking to create a new literary language that transcends linguistic and identity barriers.

Her career was punctuated by strong moments, such as the publication of her presumed last novel, The Wondrous and Tragic Life of Ivan and Ivana, and the echo of her name in discussions around the Nobel Prize in Literature. Maryse Condé always stood out for her independence of spirit and her ability to tackle complex themes in depth.

The native of Pointe-à-Pitre explored in her works the themes of race, identity and the link between the Black continent and its Caribbean diasporas, deconstructing myths and confronting the often painful realities of these regions. She leaves behind an unforgettable body of work that will continue to question, challenge and inspire, judging by the reactions of her younger counterparts Gisèle Pineau, Nadia Chonville and even Goncourt laureate Leïla Slimani

Her time in this world was marked by a relentless search for her roots through a transatlantic identity quest and a desire to bear witness to the realities of her time. More than a writer, Maryse Condé will remain a voice carrying a legacy that will continue to influence future generations.