Emmanuel Macron: « Maryse Condé taught me Africa »


In early March 2020, Maryse Condé was awarded France’s Grand’Croix de l’Ordre du Mérite. The Grand’Croix, the highest rank of the prestigious National Order of Merit, is bestowed by the President of France for distinguished military or civil achievements. [See previous post Maryse Condé wins Grand-Croix de l’ordre du merite.] Valérie Marin La Meslée (Le Point)  writes:

There was almost a family atmosphere on Monday in the lounge of the Élysée Palace, entirely devoted to Maryse Condé and her guests, for the presentation of the Great Cross of the National Order of Merit. Emmanuel Macron first met with the Guadeloupean writer and her husband and translator Richard Philcox, who came from Gordes where they live, before delivering a very emotional speech. The Head of State had already congratulated Maryse Condé for the “public’s Nobel Prize,” as he called the “alternative” Nobel Prize for literature awarded to her in 2018. At the end of a warm and relaxed ceremony, during which his wife Brigitte joined him, he told us how much he appreciated the work and career of Maryse Condé.

“I knew her when I was a young student, I read her for the first time before leaving for Nigeria, twenty years ago. It was Ségou. She has been with me for years; I have always been passionate about Africa and she is one of the writers who taught me about Africa. I am astounded by the battles she has waged and especially by this kind of fever she carries, of indiscipline, of permanent divergence. She is one of the voices of reconciliation in our own history, which is one of the subjects that obsess me. I think that one of the treasures of our nation is this fractured history with its absolutely terrible shadows, but, if we manage to transcend it, we can learn something profound from it. Maryse Condé participates in this. It is also because of this that, at the end of my speech, I drew a link between the independence struggle and the Republic, because I think that there is something of the true Republic at the foundation of her work and her struggles.”

“She did not simply follow Césaire and Fanon; she opened up the gaps in her own family history, she is really the only one to have led this fight passing through Africa, and then the United States; she has been absolutely a pioneer. And I find that, through literature, she has shown this quest for identity that is never finished. And I think we have gotten considerably lost on the subject of identity, having made many mistakes. It’s not that it should not be asked, but it should not be asked in an unmoving manner. Maryse Condé has built a narrative identity, which she built through language. And I do not say that out of loyalty to Ricœur, but I believe that the foundation of French identity is under construction, and is undergoing growth through language and its research.”

Surrounded by her children and grandchildren, the writer, who looked like a music star, was visibly moved behind her dark sunglasses. She was also moved to find in the gathering a lifelong accomplice in the person of Christiane Yandé Diop, widow of the founder of the journal and publishing house Présence africaine, for which Maryse Condé worked for some time in her life—a life of long, difficult and of incredible richness—which is implicitly told in her novels and, “without make-up,” in her autobiographical books.


[Many thanks to Peter Jordens for providing all related links. Translated by Ivette Romero. For original article (in French, see https://www.lepoint.fr/livres/emmanuel-macron-maryse-conde-m-a-appris-l-afrique-03-03-2020-2365450_37.php.]

Also see:

Maryse Condé a reçu la Grand-Croix de l’ordre national du Mérite à l’Élysée
Camille Cado, ActuaLitté, 5 mars 2020

Cérémonie – Maryse Condé Grand’Croix de l’Ordre du Mérite – Extrait
March 7, 2020: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lShd7pmHCF8


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