Maryse Condé, ‘Grande Dame’ of Francophone Literature, Dies at 90

Maryse Condé, a writer from the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe whose explorations of race, gender and colonialism across the Francophone world made her a perennial favorite for the Nobel Prize in Literature, died on Tuesday in Apt, a town in southern France. She was 90.

Her death, at a hospital, was confirmed by her husband, Richard Philcox, who translated many of her works into English.

Ms. Condé’s work, beginning with her first novel, “Hérémakhonon” (1976), came at a pivotal time, as the notion of French literature, centered on the canonical works of French writers, began to give way to the multifarious notion of Francophone literature, drawing from all parts of the French-speaking world.

Having lived in Guadeloupe, France, West Africa and the United States, Ms. Condé was able to imbue her work with a kaleidoscopic cosmopolitanism; she was equally at home with memoirs, novels set in 18th-century Mali and 17th-century Massachusetts, and even a book of food writing. Her sure-handedness won her acclaim as the “grande dame” of Francophone literature.

She was twice shortlisted for the International Booker Prize, given to novelists writing in languages other than English. After the 2018 Nobel Prize for Literature was canceled in the wake of a sexual abuse scandal among the award committee, she received the New Academy Prize, created by a group of Swedish cultural figures as a temporary replacement — the first and last person to receive the award.

Like other writers grappling with the legacy of colonialism, Ms. Condé centered her work on broadly political themes, examining the formation of different individual and collective identities. But she stood apart in her adamant nonconformity.

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