Ivorian Armand Gauz has won the 2018 Prix-Ivoire for his sublime historical fiction novel Camarade Papa.
The action is set in eighteen-eighty, where Dabilly, a young man, escapes a future as a factory worker for adventure and colonial exploits in Africa. He reaches an Ivory Coast recently deserted by the French army, where a dishevelled general negotiates with local tribes to try and establish new trading posts.
A century later, we follow a young immigrant in Amsterdam who views the world through the framework of his African parents’ communist teachings. His grandmother encourages him to reconnect with his roots by sending him to look through the archives, where he discovers fascinating traces of his ancestor.
In Camarade Papa, Gauz presents the reader with two striking perspectives—one of a black man living in Europe and another of a white man in Africa—which create a formidable exploration of unknown histories.
The unreleased longlist for the prize was made up of forty-nine books from twelve countries, of which only six made the shortlist. The other finalists were:
- Nadia Essalmi (Morocco), La révolte des rêves
- Nabil Haidar (Senegal), Les Cèdres sauvages
- Ndèye Fatou Kane (Senegal), Vous avez dit féministe?
- Azzeddine El Matine (Morocco), Slimane, le jardinier des mots
- Mohamed Toihiri (Comoros), Splendeurs et misères d’un bigame, La véritable vie d’Allan Marouani
The Prix-Ivoire has been in existence since 2008, in association with Akwaba Culture. It is sponsored by the Ministry of Culture and Francophonie of Côte d’Ivoire, the International Organisation of La Francophonie, the French Embassy in Abidjan and the Librairie de France Group of Côte d’Ivoire. It is awarded yearly to books which have been written or translated into French by Africans on the continent or in the diaspora, or that are considered broadly to be part of African literature. Previous winners include Kettly Mars from Haiti, Mariama Ndoye of Senegal and Johary Ravaloson of Madagascar, last year’s winner.
Authors Fatou Diome, Emmanuel Dongala and Wilfried N’Sondé were invited as guests of honour to the ceremony, held in Abidjan in late November. Gauz’s prize comes with a trophy, 2 million CFA francs, and will be the guest of honour at the 2019 Geneva Book Fair.
- Efemia Chela is Francophone and Contributing Editor. Follow her on Twitter.