The Senegalese novelist Mohamed Mbougar Sarr has been awarded the 2021 Prix Goncourt Prize for his novel La plus secrète mémoire des hommes (The Most Secret Memory of Men). He was announced winner at the Drouant restaurant near the Opéra Garnier in Paris.
The Prix Goncourt Prize, first awarded in 1903, is one of the most prestigious literary prizes for Francophone literature. Although valued at €10, winners are guaranteed instant literary success, racking up thousands of sales.
Mbougar’s win is remarkable for many reasons: at 31, he is the youngest winner in the prize’s history since 1976, he is the first winner from Sub-Saharan Africa, and he is the first black winner since René Maran in 1921, exactly a century ago.
Mohamed said he felt, “quite simply, enormous joy.” The Guardian reports that the novel was selected winner on first round of reading. His third novel, the story “mirrors the life of Malian writer Yambo Oulpguem who won the Prix Renudot in 1968, but was later accused of plagiarism, left France and disappeared from public life.” It received positive reviews upon release and was praised by the judges for its “electrifying” storyline.
It is equally worthy to note what a marvelous year it has been for African literature. Samuel Kolawole, writer and academic, pointed out on social media that 2021 was the first time that the most prestigious awards in the world’s major languages, Anglophone (Booker), Lusophone (Cameos) and Francophone (Prix Goncourt), were awarded to Africans.
Super congratulations to Mohamed Mbougar Sarr.