Legendary Author Maryse Condé Dies at 90

The grande dame of Caribbean literature passed Monday night at a hospital outside Marseille.

The image depicts Maryse Conde with two of her book covers, including Windward Heights
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  • Photo Credit: MEDEF / Flickr

French-language novelist Maryse Condé, who won the 2018 alternate Nobel Prize and helped to redefine modern literature, died Monday night at a hospital in Apt, France. She was 90 years old. 

Best known for works like the novels Segu and Windward Heights, her reimagining of Wuthering Heights, Condé's catalog was intersectional and probing, reflecting her own experience as a deep thinker and a world traveler. It explored the conflicts within Western culture, African culture, and Caribbean culture. 

Though Condé did not publish her first novel until she was nearly 40, she went on to have a long and distinguished career alongside her husband, Richard Philcox, who served as the English-language translator for many of her works. Even when her sight went in later years, she managed to dictate her final novel, The Gospel According to the New World

She was distinguished by such prizes as the Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from the French government and an informal honor in 2018 in place of the Nobel Prize in Literature, which was sidelined for the year amid allegation of sexual harassment by prize committee members.

Born in Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe in 1934, Condé spent a decade in Ghana and met Philcox in Senegal. She taught at American universities like Columbia and UCLA and spent the most recent years in France. She leaves behind a legacy of greatness, of curiosity, and of wisdom.

The Story of the Cannibal Woman

The Story of the Cannibal Woman

By Maryse Conde

One dark night in Cape Town, Rosélie's husband goes out for a pack of cigarettes and never comes back. 

Left with unanswered questions about his violent death, the new widow decides to take advantage of the strange gifts she has always possessed and embarks on a career as a clairvoyant. As the character hones her craft, so too does the author: Maryse Condé manages to graft a deft exploration of post-apartheid South Africa onto this smart, gripping thriller.

Contemporary and international, The Story of the Cannibal Woman follows the lives of an interracial, intercultural couple in New York City, Tokyo, and Capetown. 

Featured photo: Flicker; MEDEF