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Dec 09, 2023 / 13:23

First Vietnam Goncourt Prize awarded to Haitian writer

Author Makenzy Orcel (Haiti) won the first Vietnam Goncourt Selection Award for his novel about women's faith in society.

The first "Vietnam's Goncourt Selection" was awarded to Haitian writer Makenzy Orcel at a ceremony held at the French Embassy (Hanoi) on the evening of December 8.

The Goncourt is the most prestigious award in French literature. It has been internationalized through the "Goncourt selection" in 35 countries around the world.

 Haitian writer Makenzy Orcel receives the prize. Photo: The Hanoi Times

According to the French Embassy, Vietnam and France shared a common past, a "destiny" that was the basis for a strong bond between the two countries today. Classical French literature has also left a deep mark on the Vietnamese people. The works of Victor Hugo, Balzac, Alexandre Dumas, Stendhal, Molière... are taught in schools, known and loved by the public. French culture influences contemporary Vietnamese literary and artistic creation in many ways: Drama, modern poetry, modern novels...

As an official member of the International Organization of La Francophonie (OIF) since the 1970s, Vietnam continues to give priority to encouraging young people to learn French. French is currently taught in 35 provinces and cities in Vietnam, of which 13 provinces have bilingual classes and many enrichment programs. French is also developed through French departments at universities and high schools in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, as well as through the network of French institutes throughout the country.

In this context, the organization of "Vietnam's Goncourt Selection" is seen as one of the strategies to strengthen academic, publishing and cultural cooperation between Vietnam and France.

This selection was made on the basis of the votes of Vietnamese French students at prestigious universities in Hanoi, Da Nang, and Ho Chi Minh City. Among the four works proposed by the Goncourt Academy, the students chose Une somme humaine (A Summary of Human Life) by Haitian writer Makenzy Orcel.

 Makenzy Orcel's moving work on the lives of women in society wins the award.

Nguyen Anh Tuyet, a student at Hanoi University who joined the voting, said: "We spent a lot of time reading and discussing the books. The selection is not easy because we have to analyze the works based on quality criteria, the Vietnamese context, and the messages relevant to the readers".

She evaluated Une somme humaine as a work with a theme relevant to Vietnamese readers. The author used personal pronouns to create intimacy with the reader. It is a story about one woman who represents many women with broken destinies in society.

"We were also impressed by the writing style in one go, without punctuation, because not every writer can do that," Anh Tuyet said.

Born in 1983 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Makenzy Orcel is the author of many collections of poetry and novels.

Even as a teenager, he felt the urge to tell stories. That is why Makenzy Orcel was interested in literature from a very early age, even though he grew up in a house without books and a neighborhood without libraries. Sometimes, he found a book at the market and used it to share with his classmates.

"I read a lot. Once, I even fainted because reading too much made my head hot. I don't write for awards or recognition. I write because it's important; because literature is an invitation for us to see the world in a different way, to approach the world in a different way, and to help others see through the foundations of the world," Makenzy Orcel told The Hanoi Times.

Orcel has received numerous awards and honors for his work, including the Littérature-Monde Prize, the Louis Guilloux Prize, the Fondation Simone Prize, and the Cino Del Duc Prize, which was recommended by the French Academy's Grand Prize Committee and made it to the final round of the 2022 Goncourt Tournament, America's Goncourt Selection.

Writer Makenzy Orcel will meet with readers on December 12 at 6 pm at the IDECAF Library, 31 Thai Van Lung, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. The event will have a French-Vietnamese interpreter and its admission is free.