October 1, 2014
French literature prize goes to Algerian novelist Kamel Daoud
by Nick Davies
Earlier this week, the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF, in English “International Organization of Francophone Countries”) announced the latest winner of its prestigious literary prize: Kamel Daoud, Algerian author of the novel Meursault, contre-enquête (Meursault, Second Inquiry).
The Prix des cinq continents de la Francophonie (the Five Continents of the Francophone World Prize) was established in 2001 in order “to give more international recognition to the wide variety of literature being written in the French language,” according to Radio France Interationale (RFI), which reported the news on Monday. Nobel Prize winner for literature Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio, president of the prize jury, said in a statement that the hope was to acknowledge “a novel which questions our blindness both throughout history and today and examines the issue of justice and otherness once the terror of colonialism has abated.”
As you might guess, Meursault, contre-enquête is a tribute to/re-imagining of Albert Camus’s existentialist novel L’Etranger, which tells the story of Meursault, an Algerian who kills an Arab man after his mother’s funeral. Like Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, the novel reconsiders a classic work from a different racial perspective; it’s told from the point of view of the brother of the murdered Arab. As the RFI article puts it, “In Daoud’s book, the brother becomes a drunk who rants in a bar talking about his sibling and giving substance to the ‘Arab,’ who in the Camus novel is merely a symbol with no character.”
Daoud’s win marks the first time the Five Continents Prize has gone to a work published by an African publishing house. He’ll accept the prize at the OIF summit in Dakar, Senegal on November 28.
Nick Davies is a publicist at Melville House.