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Author Marie NDiaye is the first black woman to win the Prix Goncourt

November 2, 2009 |  3:49 pm

France's top literary prize, the Prix Goncourt, was awarded today to French Senagalese author Marie NDiaye for her novel "Trois Femmes Puissantes" ("Three Powerful Women"). It is the first time a black woman has received the award.

Last week, NDiaye told the news agency AFP that she "never thought of it in those terms: 'black woman' and 'Goncourt,' " the Guardian reports. "I find it impossible to see things that way," she said. "I don't represent anything or anyone. I have met many French people raised in Africa who are more African than I am." But at the ceremony in Paris, she said, "I am very happy to be a woman receiving the Goncourt," the BBC reports. "This prize is an unexpected reward for 25 years of persistence."

NDiaye, 42, published her first novel at 17. She moved to Berlin in 2007, the BBC reports, "after President Nicolas Sarkozy won the election, saying she finds France under his rule 'monstrous' and 'vulgar.' "

The Prix Goncourt's preeminence helps books find their way to -- or remain on -- bestseller lists. But the financial reward that comes with it -- about $15 -- is a mere token. Previous winners include Marguerite ´╗┐Marguerite Duras, for "The Lover," Georges Duhamel for "Civilization" and Simone de Beauvoir for "The Mandarins."

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Marie NDiaye surrounded by reporters after the announcement. Credit: Christophe Ena / Associated Press