Nominated by:

Gradska Knjiznica Rijeka, Croatia

Zentral- u. Landesbibliothek Berlin, Germany

Universitäts-und Landesbibliothek Bonn, Germany

Publisher of nominated edition:

MacLehose Press, UK

Alfred A. Knopf, USA

Three Strong Women

Marie NDiaye      

Translated from the original French by John Fletcher

2014 Shortlist

Judges’ comments

Moving between Senegal and France, Three Strong Women is composed of three linked stories, each with a remarkable heroine at its heart: resilient, resourceful women who face numerous battles against the society and culture in which they live – but also against themselves. Although it tackles weighty, contemporary issues such as migration and identity, the novel never loses its stylistic ambitions, nor its intimacy; it is a work of genuine grace and power.

About the Book

Forty-year-old Norah leaves Paris, her family and her career as a lawyer to visit her father in Dakar. It is an uncomfortable reunion – she is asked to use her skills as a lawyer to get her brother out of prison – and ultimately the trip endangers her marriage and her relationship with her own daughter, and drives her to the very edge of madness.

Fanta, on the other hand, leaves Dakar to follow her husband Rudy to rural France. And it is through Rudy’s bitter and guilt-ridden perspective that we see Fanta stagnate with boredom in this alien, narrow environment.

Khady is forced into exile from Senegal because of poverty, because her husband is dead, because she is lonely and in despair. With other illegal immigrants, she embarks on a journey which takes her nowhere, but from which she will never return.

(From Publisher)

About the Author

Marie NDiaye was born in France in 1967. She published her first novel at seventeen, and has won the Prix Femina (Rosie Carpe in 2001) and the Prix Goncourt (Three Strong Women, 2009). Her play Papa Doit Manger has been taken into the repertoire of the Comédie Française. In 2007, after the election of Nicolas Sarkozy, NDiaye left France with her family to live in Berlin.

Librarians’ Comments

Winner of the Goncourt Prize in 2009. This is a story of three strong women of African descent and their struggle to preserve their personal pride in the face of many humiliations that life has brought to them.

Each of these lives, the lives of the “three strong women”, is divided between Africa and Europe. Their stories are fascinating, intriguing and heartbreaking at the same time. Marie NDiaye succeeds in addressing politics in crystallline and virtuous prose.

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