Five African novels, in competition. Four nationalities to decide. Four women. One man. At the end: a prize; a pretty round pot. The fight for the LES AFRIQUES Prize promises to be hot. However, rest assured. This is not the « PRIX FEMINA » in France. It is an exclusively African literary prize: the « PRIX LES AFRIQUES ». Every year since 2016, the prize is awarded to an author of African descent.
In alphabetical order they are Fann ATTIKI, « Cave 72 », Estelle-Sarah BULLE, « The Shooting Stars », Osvalde LEWAT, « The Aquatic », Imbolo MBUE, « May we live long » and Emmelie PROPHET, « The Villages of God ». These are the five writers around whom the fight has been limited. Fingers crossed for the rest.
The winner – or most likely the winner – of this 7th edition of the Prix les Afriques will be announced in mid-December 2022. It will be a beautiful Christmas present for the winner. A question on everyone’s lips: Who will succeed the author of « La danse du Vilain » (2021)? As much as (you) say it, the jury members will have pages to unpack. Who will be the writer who has been able to identify the societal, ideological, political, cultural, economic, philosophical or even historical issues of black Africa? This literary award is a major innovation. Students from several countries of Black Africa will read and discuss these novels during literary cafés organized by the association CENE Littéraire, Circle of Friends of Committed Black Writers.
With each new creation of literary prizes, opinions are mixed. Some are for, others are against. On either side, the reasons given are far from satisfying both sides. Each year, literary prizes flourish the literary field. As long as this flowering helps to highlight African writers, we can only rejoice. We are in an era where African literature – be it English or French – is drowned by super-prizes like Goncourt or Pulitzer and that are only given pride of place to publishing houses such as Gallimard, Flammarion, Lattès,… The public has the feeling that African literature is scorned, despised, or even relegated to a sort of literary subgenre for sub-men. The African writer is almost always discredited. It has lasted too long.
Flore Agnès Nda Zoa aka Ngoan Béty, editor and lawyer of Cameroonian origin, understood the need for this highlighting. In 2016, she created L’association de la CENE Littéraire. It is a series of literary cafés in several sub-Saharan countries, a writing residence in Cameroon. Éditions Flore Agnès Nda Zoa managed to buy the rights of Ferdinand Oyono from Éditions Julliard for three of his works ( Une vie de boy (1956), Le vieux nègre et la médaille (1956), Chemin d’Europe (1960)). She launches the literary prize Les Afriques. This new prize, which is awarded only to authors of African descent, is endowed with 6,000 Swiss francs and a work of art by Dr Momar Seck, artist, painter and sculptor, worth 3,000 Swiss francs. It should be remembered that all writers of African descent without exception can take part in this award.
The prognoses are difficult to make. We are faced with real literary talents that are almost all the same. To the members of the jury we already know – Mr. Ambroise Kom (President), Ms. Hortense Sime, Ms. Alphonsine Bouya, Mr. Boubacar Boris Diop, Mr. Sada Kane, Mr. Koulsy Lamko – were added others like Ms. Adelaïde Fassinou: novelist, poet and international civil servant (Benin), Ms Kettly Mars: Poet and novelist (Haiti), Mr. Josias Semujanga, Full Professor of the Department of French-language Literature at the University of Montreal in Canada ( Rwanda).