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Prix Goncourt

November 2, 2009

A woman of French and Senegalese descent has won the prestigious Prix Goncourt for a novel detailing the harrowing experiences of three women who struggle to preserve their dignity.

Novelist Marie NDiaye poses with her book "Trois femmes puissantes," or "Three Strong Women"
The author moved to Berlin in 2007, protesting Sarkozy's electionImage: AP

Novelist Marie NDiaye, a 42-year-old who currently resides in Berlin, became the first black woman to win France's most prestigious book prize.

NDiaye's won the Prix Goncourt for her novel "Trois Femmes Puissantes," or "Three Strong Women."

"It is the story of three women who are each powerful in a different way," NDiaye told reporters as she received the 106-year-old prize at an award ceremony in Paris.

A story told 'many times before'

"What links them is a deep strength, a belief in who they are, as a way of never doubting their own humanity. They have a quiet strength."

"The story of these migrants has been told many times before, but if this can help people understand their fate a bit better, I will be happy," she said as she received the prize.

NDiaye moved with her husband and three children to Berlin in 2007, to protest the election of French President Nicholas Sarkozy under whom France, she said, is "vulgar" and "monstrous."

But NDiaye - born to a French mother and Senegalese father and raised exclusively in France - told reporters that she had always defined herself as a French woman rather than an African woman.

With her first novel published when she was 17, NDiaye has long been established as one of France's top writers.

Prize carries great weight, little money

The Goncourt prize carries a lot of weight in French literary circles though it only offers a symbolic 10 euro ($14) endowment.

"This gives me great pleasure and I am also very happy to be a woman receiving the Goncourt Prize," NDiaye told reporters. The last woman to win the prize was Paule Constant in 1998.

Editor: Jennifer Abramsohn