The Caribbean Prix Carbet was awarded Saturday night to Alain Plénel, a former official in the national Department of Education in Martinique during the 1950s, well known for his humanistic and anti-colonial ideas.
Vice-Rector of Education in Martinique from 1955 to 1960, Plénel was dismissed from his job after the publication of his position papers viv-à-vis the December 1959 riots in Martinique. The award was accepted by his son, the journalist Eadwig Plénel, who said that he thought “the Carbet Prize jury intended symbolically, through Alain Plénel, to honor a historic moment and an individual attitude.” He spoke of his father as someone who “took a risk to say no, no to repression, no to colonial violence and no to everything that betrayed the ideals of freedom and equality that the country was supposed to represent.”
The selection of Plénel was surprising as the prize usually goes to a writer (a handful of names had circulated this year as possible winners). Instead, in the 20th year of the award, Edouard Glissant, chair of the selections committee, explained that this year they would bestow the award “not on a book or a work of art but to the whole lifetime of work of a man or woman. Possibly to the work of the spirit”
Plénel follows in the footsteps of last year’s recipients, Guadeloupean writer Simone Schwarz-Bart and her late husband Andre Schwarz-Bart. (My thanks to Thomas Spear for the correction–see his comment below.)