Guadeloupean writer Maryse Condé has been announced as the winner of the New Academy Prize in Literature, a literary prize formed as an alternative to the Nobel Prize in Literature, which was postponed this year following allegations of corruption and sexual misconduct.
Founded by journalist Alexandra Pascalidou and approximately 100 Swedish cultural figures, the alternative Nobel was set up “to warrant that an international literary prize be awarded in 2018, but also as a reminder that literature should be associated with democracy, openness, empathy and respect”.
A writer of historical fiction that engages with themes of race, gender and culture, Condé is best known for her novel Segu and as a scholar of Francophone literature. Her book I, Tituba: Black Witch of Salem tells of a black woman persecuted under the Salem witch trials and the author is also known for Windward Heights, a Caribbean reimagining of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights.
Condé beat two other finalists for the prize, British fantasy writer Neil Gaiman and Vietnamese-Canadian author Kim Thuy Ly Thanh. The fourth finalist, Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami, withdrew from the prize due to a desire to “concentrate on his writing, far from media attention.”
Coming with a cash prize of one million kronor, or approximately $112,000, the New Academy Prize, while a one-time award without the heft of the Literature Nobel, was recognised for being more democratic and inclusive than the world’s most prestigious literary award.