A jury of French high school readers has awarded the prestigious Goncourt students prize to Djaïli Amadou Amal for her novel “Les Impatientes”. The Cameroon-born writer says she is glad her message about violence against women in African culture has been understood by today’s young people.
Les Impatientes (The Impatient Ones) describes the lives of Ramla, Hindou et Safira, three young women from wealthy families in Marouna, northern Cameroon, and their struggles to live up to society’s expectations.
The novel deals openly with polygamy, rape and arranged marriage, realities which women of all social classes across the Sahel must face.
Upon learning the jury’s decision, via video conference on Wednesday, Amadou Amal said she was “very proud and moved”.
“This represents so much for me,” she said. “That we can talk about violence against women…and that young people have chosen this story, it means they are sensitive to its message. And that represents hope for the future,” she said. “It means they can change the world.”
“Happy to be handing this award to Djaili Amadou Amal,” wrote France’s Education Minister, Jean-Michel Blanquer, on Twitter.
“A poignant novel about violence against women which touched our 2,000 high school jury participants. She pays homage to victims of Boko Haram.”
“Bravo to the students and their teachers! Long live reading!”
A moving testimony
“It condemns without accusation,” said Clémence Nominé, president of the Prix Goncourt des Lycéens jury made up of 12 members who had to make a choice from six novels.
“The writing is very honest without being superfluous. It’s a subtle book which allows us to observe the question of forced marriage through a moving testimony.”
Les Impatientes had been one of the four novels in the running for the main Goncourt prize which was won by Hervé Le Tellier for L’Anomalie (The Anomaly) on Monday.
Born in 1975, Amadou Amal has published three successful novels and been awarded the Prix Orange for African literature.
As president of the feminist organisation Femmes du Sahel, she has striven to give a voice to those not usually heard in African society.
The Goncourt des lycéens Prize, organised since 1988 by the Ministry of Education, is the second most prestigious literary prize in France after the Goncourt. The award usually guarantees the winner huge additional sales.