Maryse Condé: The Birth of the African Epic Fiction

Maryse Condé
Maryse Condé

Maryse Condé is a Guadelopean/ French writer.  She was married to a Guinean actor, and as such has always kept the patronym ‘Condé’ which hails from Guinea.  She is a strong writer, and in my opinion, one of the best female writers of African descent.  Her writing is deep, and encompasses a mixture of creole ancestry, and African culture.  She has had a distinguished career as a writer and has taught at several prestigious universities in the US and France: Columbia University, University of California Berkeley, Harvard University, UCLA, University of Maryland, University of Virginia, Sorbonne, and Nanterre.

She tends to write historic fiction where she focuses on racial, gender, and cultural issues. I am an avid reader of Condé’s books.  In I, Tituba: Black Witch of Salem [Moi, Tituba Sorciere] she explores slavery, and black presence during the Salem witch trials (until I read this book, it had never crossed my mind that there could be Blacks in Salem at that time).

'Segu' by Maryse Conde
‘Segu’ by Maryse Conde

One of the best novels ever written on an African kingdom was that of the capital of the Bambara Empire  Segu [Ségou] by Maryse Condé, which is deep and resurrects a very well-known kingdom in Mali, as well as slavery at that time, tribal warfare, the advance of islam in West Africa, the clash of cultures between muslims and animists, as well as muslims and Christians later on, and finally the presence of the white colons and the start of European imperialism in Africa. Through her novel, one finds strong historical facts, such as the battle between Fanti and Ashanti people in Ghana divided between French and English (An African version of the French-Indian war), the presence of Yoruba people in Sierra Leone, the presence of slave communities of Yoruba descent in Brazil and Jamaica, the different historic places such as the Gold coast, the Slave coast, the Grain coast, the weakening of the Bambara by the Islamic conquest which left them vulnerable to any advance by the French colonizers, etc… The depth of this book makes it one of the best African epic novel. For anybody craving for a history of Africa in the 18th/19th century, Segu is the best out there!

Moi, Tituba Sorciere
Moi, Tituba Sorciere

Asked about the meaning of her writing, Condé says: Je ne suis pas un ‘écrivain à message.’ J’écris d’abord pour moi, pour m’aider à comprendre et supporter la vie. En racontant des histoires que j’espère signifiantes, je souhaite aussi aider les autres, ceux de mon peuple en particulier, à comprendre et à la supporter à leur tour. [I am not a ‘writer of messages’. I write first for myself, to help me understand and bare life. By telling stories that I deem meaningful, I hope to help others also, particularly my people, to understand and bare life as well.]

Condé has received several awards, including the Prix Liberatur (Germany) for Segu, the Grand Prix Littéraire de la Femme for I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem, the Prix Carbet de la Caraïbe for Desirada, the Prix Marguerite Yourcenar for Le Coeur À Rire et À Pleurer (1999, Tales from the Heart: True Stories from my Childhood), and Le Grand Prix du roman métis for En Attendant la Montée des Eaux (2010). In 2001 she was ordained Commandeur dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres de la France and in 2004 she was made Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur.  Please help me acclaim one of the greatest writers of African descent!!!  Enjoy this interview given by Maryse Conde to Elizabeth Nunez on   The website “ile-en-ile” provides a complete bibliography of her work. You will find a detailed biography of Condé on Kirjasto, and this interview of Maryse Conde where she discusses her book Victoire: My Mother’s Mother, about her grandmother.

4 thoughts on “Maryse Condé: The Birth of the African Epic Fiction

  1. Arnaudwilly

    Thank you so much for the amazing article you wrote on this great lady! I never took the time to know what she was really about and this article sums it all for me. I think now that I have to read her books!


  2. Pingback: Maryse Condé raconte Ségou « African Heritage

  3. Banana as Currency

    Uh oh! MORE books on my reading list! All you awesome bloggers and trying to kill me!
    thank you 🍌🍍🍌🍍🍌🍍


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