Maryse Condé in 2008
February 11, 1937
Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe, France
|Education||Lycée Fénelon , Sorbonne Nouvelle|
|Alma mater||Sorbonne Nouvelle|
|Notable works||Ségou (1984)|
Maryse Condé (née Boucolon; February 11, 1937) is a French novelist, critic, and playwright from the French Overseas department and region of Guadeloupe. Condé is best known for her novel Ségou (1984–85).
Her novels explore the African diaspora that resulted from slavery and colonialism in the Caribbean. Her novels, written in French, have been translated into English, German, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Japanese. She has won various awards, such as the Grand Prix Littéraire de la Femme (1986), Prix de l’Académie francaise (1988), Prix Carbet de la Carraibe (1997) and the New Academy Prize in Literature (2018) for her works.
Born as Maryse Boucolon at Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe, she was the youngest of eight children. In an interview entitled "I Have Made Peace With My Island" Maryse Condé recounts aspects of her early life. Condé describes her parents as among the first black instructors in Guadeloupe. Condé's mother, Jeanne Quidal directed her own school for girls. Condé's father, Auguste Boucolon previously an educator, founded the small bank "Le Caisse Coopérative des prêts" which was later renamed as "La Banque Antillaise."
Condé's father, Auguste Boucolon had two sons from his first marriage, Serge and Albert.Condé's three sisters are named Ena, Jeanne and Gillette. Her four brothers are named Auguste, Jean, René, and Guy.Condé's birth 11 years after Guy, made her the youngest of the eight children. Condé was born while her mother was 43, and her father was 63. Condé's describes herself as "the spoiled child", which she attributes to her parents older age, and the age-gap between her and her siblings.
After having graduated from high school, she attended Lycée Fénelon from 1953 to 1955.Condé was expelled after two years of attendance.Condé instead furthered her studies at the Université de Paris III (Sorbonne Nouvelle) in Paris. During her attendance, she along with other West Indians, established the Luis-Carlos Prestes club.
In 1959, Condé attended a rehearsal of Les Nègres/The Blacks by Jean Genêt, where she would meet the Guinean actor Mamadou Condé. In August 1959 she married Mamadou Condé. They eventually had four children together. By November 1959 the couple's relationship became strained, and Condé moved to the Ivory Coast, where she would teach for a year.
In 1973 she returned to Paris, and taught Francophone literature at Paris VII (Jussieu), X (Nanterre), and Ill (Sorbonne Nouvelle). In 1975, she completed her M.A. and Ph.D. at the Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris in comparative literature, examining black stereotypes in Caribbean literature.
In 1981, she and Condé divorced, having long been separated. The following year she married Richard Philcox, the English-language translator of most of her novels.
She did not publish her first novel, Hérémakhonon until she was nearly 40 because "[she] didn't have confidence in [herself] and did not dare present [her] writing to the outside world." However, Condé would not reach her current prominence as a contemporary Caribbean writer until the publication of her third novel, Ségou (1984).
Following the success of Ségou, in 1985 Condé was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to teach in the US. She became a professor of French and Francophone literature at Columbia University in New York City in 1995.
Condé has taught at various universities, including the University of California, Berkeley; UCLA, the Sorbonne, The University of Virginia, and the University of Nanterre. She retired from teaching in 2005.
Condé's novels explore racial, gender and cultural issues in a variety of historical eras and locales, including the Salem witch trials in I, Tituba: Black Witch of Salem (1986); the 19th-century Bambara Empire of Mali in Ségou (1984-1985); and the 20th-century building of the Panama Canal and its influence on increasing the West Indian middle class in Tree of Life (1987). Her novels trace the relationships between African peoples and the diaspora, especially the Caribbean.
Her first novel, Hérémakhonon, was published in 1976. It was so controversial that it was pulled from the shelves after six months because of its criticism over the success of African socialism. While the story closely parallels Condé's own life during her first stay in Guinea, and is written as a first-person narrative, she stresses that it is not an autobiography. The book is the story, as she described it, of an "'anti-moi', an ambiguous persona whose search for identity and origins is characterized by a rebellious form of sexual libertinage".
She has kept considerable distance from most Caribbean literary movements, such as Negritude and Creolité, and has often focused on topics with strong feminist and political concerns. A radical activist in her work as well as in her personal life, Condé has admitted: "I could not write anything... unless it has a certain political significance. I have nothing else to offer that remains important."
Condé's later writings have become increasingly autobiographical, such as Tales From the Heart: True Stories From My Childhood (1999) and Victoire (2006), a fictional biography of her maternal grandmother in which she explores themes of motherhood, femininity, race relations, and the family dynamic in the postcolonial Caribbean. Who Slashed Celanire's Throat (2000) shows traces of Condé's paternal great-grandmother.
However, her 1995 novel Windward Heights is a reworking of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, which she had first read at the age of 14. Condé had long wanted to create a work around it, as an act of "homage." Her novel is set in Guadeloupe, and race and culture are featured as issues that divide people. Reflecting on how she drew from her Caribbean background in writing this book, she said:
"To be part of so many worlds—part of the African world because of the African slaves, part of the European world because of the European education—is a kind of double entendre. You can use that in your own way and give sentences another meaning. I was so pleased when I was doing that work, because it was a game, a kind of perverse but joyful game."
Among her plays are:
- An tan revolisyon, published in 1991, first performed in Guadeloupe in 1989
- Comedie d'Amour, first performed in Guadeloupe in 1993
- Dieu nous l'a donné, published in 1972, first performed in Paris in 1973
- La mort d'Oluwemi d'Ajumako, published in 1973, first performed in 1974 in Gabon
- Le morne de Massabielle, first version staged in 1974 in Puteaux (France), later staged in English in New York as The Hills of Massabielle (1991)
- Pension les Alizes, published in 1988, first staged in Guadeloupe and subsequently staged in New York as Tropical Breeze Hotel (1995)
- Les sept voyages de Ti Noel (written in collaboration with José Jernidier), first performed in Guadeloupe in 1987.
Maryse Condé's literary archive (Maryse Condé Papers) are held at Columbia University Libraries.
- Hérémakhonon (1976). Heremakhonon, trans. Richard Philcox (1982).
- Une saison à Rihata (1981). A Season in Rihata, trans. Richard Philcox (1988).
- Ségou: Les murailles de terre (1984). Segu, trans. Barbara Bray (1987).
- Ségou: La terre en miettes (1985). The Children of Segu, trans. Linda Coverdale (1989).
- Moi, Tituba, sorcière… Noire de Salem (1986). I, Tituba: Black Witch of Salem, trans. Richard Philcox (1992).
- La vie scélérate (1987). Tree of Life, trans. Victoria Reiter (1992).
- Traversée de la mangrove (1989). Crossing the Mangrove, trans. Richard Philcox (1995).
- Les derniers rois mages (1992). The Last of the African Kings, trans. Richard Philcox (1997).
- La colonie du nouveau monde (1993).
- La migration des coeurs (1995). Windward Heights, trans. Richard Philcox (1998).
- Desirada (1997). Desirada, trans. Richard Philcox (2000).
- Célanire cou-coupé (2000). Who Slashed Celanire's Throat?, trans. Richard Philcox (2004).
- La belle créole (2001). The Belle Créole, trans. Nicole Simek (2020).
- Historie de la femme cannibale (2003). The Story of the Cannibal Woman, trans. Richard Philcox (2007).
- Les belles ténébreuses (2008).
- En attendant la montée des eaux (2010).
- Le fabuleux et triste destin d’Ivan et d’Ivana (2017). The Wondrous and Tragic Life of Ivan and Ivana, trans. Richard Philcox (2020).
- An Tan Revolisyon (1989).
- Comme deux frères (2007). Like Two Brothers.
- Entretiens avec Maryse Condé (1993). Conversations with Maryse Condé (1996). Interviews with Françoise Pfaff. English translation includes a new chapter based on a 1994 interview.
- Le coeur à rire et à pleurer : souvenirs de mon enfance (1999). Tales From the Heart: True Stories From My Childhood, trans. Richard Philcox (2001).
- Victoire, les saveurs et les mots (2006). Victoire: My Mother's Mother, trans. Richard Philcox (2006).
- La vie sans fards (2012). What Is Africa to Me? Fragments of a True-to-Life Autobiography, trans. Richard Philcox (2017).
- The Journey of a Caribbean Writer (2013). Collection of essays, translated by Richard Philcox.
- Mets et merveilles (2015). Of Morsels and Marvels, trans. Richard Philcox (2015).
Awards and honours
- 1986: Le Grand Prix Littéraire de la Femme
- 1988: Le Prix de l’Académie francaise (La vie scélérate)
- 1988: Liberatur Prize (Ségou)
- 1993: Puterbaugh Prize
- 1997: Prix Carbet de la Caraibe (Desirada)
- 1999: Marguerite Yourcenar Prize (Le coeur à rire et à pleurer)
- 1999: Lifetime Achievement Award from New York University's Africana Studies program
- 2001: Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Government
- 2005: Hurston & Wright Legacy Award (Who Slashed Celanire's Throat?)
- 2007: Tropiques Prize of the Agence française de développement (Victoire, les saveurs et les mots)
- "Maryse CONDE", Aflit, University of Western Australia/French.
- "Author Profile: Maryse Condé", World Literature Today, Vol. 78, No. 3/4 (September–December 2004), p. 27, via JSTOR.
- Condé, Maryse, and Richard Philcox. Tales from the Heart: True Stories from My Childhood. New York: Soho, 2001.
- Rebecca Wolff, Interview: "Maryse Condé" Archived November 1, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, Bomb Magazine, Vol. 68, Summer 1999. Retrieved April 27, 2016.
- "Maryse Condé | Columbia | French". french.columbia.edu. Retrieved March 16, 2019.
- "Author Profile: Maryse Condé". World Literature Today (September–December 2004), 78 (3/4), p. 27.
- Clark, VèVè A.; Cecile Daheny (1989). ""I Have Made Peace With My Island": An Interview with Maryse Condé". Callaloo (38): 87–133. doi:10.2307/2931145. ISSN 0161-2492. JSTOR 2931145.
- Quinn, Annalisa (October 12, 2018). "Maryse Condé Wins an Alternative to the Literature Nobel in a Scandal-Plagued Year". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 16, 2019.
- Condé, Maryse (February 6, 2019). "Giving Voice to Guadeloupe". The New York Review of Books. Retrieved March 16, 2019.
- Lionnet, F. (1989). "Happiness Deferred: Maryse Condé's Heremakhonon and the Failure of Enunciation". In Autobiographical Voices: Race, Gender, Self-Portraiture (pp. 167–190). Ithaca; London: Cornell University Press.
- Alvina Ruprecht, "An Interview with Maryse Condé" (abstract), International Journal of Francophone Studies, Vol. 2, Issue 1 (January 1999).
- Finding aid to Maryse Condé papers at Columbia University. Rare Book & Manuscript Library.
- French Guadeloupe writer Maryse Condé reading from her work in the Recording Laboratory, Sept. 24, 1999 (Library of Congress)
- Works by Maryse Condé at Open Library
- Works by or about Maryse Condé in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- Mekkawi, Mohamed. Maryse Condé: Novelist, Playwright, Critic, Teacher: An Introductory Biobibliography. Washington, D.C.: Howard University Libraries, 1990.
- Perisic, Alexandra. Precarious Crossings: Immigration, Neoliberalism, and the Atlantic (on Maryse Condé, Roberto Bolaño, Giannina Braschi, Caryl Phillips), 2019.
- Petri Liukkonen. "Maryse Condé". Books and Writers
- Artist Page from the University of Minnesota
- Présentation du Fonds Maryse Condé de la Médiathèque Caraïbe (laméca), ouvrages issus de la bibliothèque privée de Maryse Condé
- webGuinée - Maryse Condé
- Maryse Condé recorded for the Archive of Literature from the Hispanic Division at the Library of Congress, Washington, D.D., on September 24, 1999.