Famed writer, Mohamed Mbougar Sarr, is the recipient of France's most prestigious literary award, the 2021 Prix Goncourt. He is the first sub-Saharan African author to do so while also being the youngest author to win in decades, being only 31.
Mr. Sarr discussed his award-winning work, "La plus secrète mémoire des hommes," or "The Most Secret Memory of Men," co-published by Philippe Rey and Jimsaan. The story follows the quest of a young Senegalese author who discovers an acclaimed literary work called "The Labyrinth of the Inhuman," published in 1938 by a now-vanished author, TC Elimane who disappeared shortly after its release. The young author is so overtaken by the novel that he throws himself on a path to uncover what lies behind the mystery. The fictitious author, TC Elimane is actually based off of real-life author, Yambo Ouologuem, who left the public eye after accusations of plagiarism for a publication he released in 1968.
Mbougar Sarr was joined by Duke faculty for this conversation: Dr. Sarah Quesada, Assistant Professor in the Department of Romance Studies, Dr. Anne-Gaëlle Saliot, Associate Professor of Romance Studies and Core Faculty in Cinematic Arts, and Dr. Felwine Sarr, the Anne-Marie Bryan Chair in French and Francophone Studies at Duke University. This recording was co-sponsored by the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute (FHI) and the Center for French and Francophone Studies both at Duke University. Translation provided by Amanda Gann with captioning performed by Lukas Sanchez. Additional captioning and editing by FHI Multimedia Director Eric Barstow.