Maryse Condé is a powerful literary force, “The grand queen, the empress, of Caribbean literature,” according to Fiammetta Rocco, and now the oldest writer to be longlisted for the International Booker Prize with her latest work, The Gospel According to the New World (published by World Editions, 2023). Condé’s work stands proud alongside 12 other translated works longlisted for this year’s prize, and the judges praised her as “the great voice of the Caribbean.” Keep reading to find out more about her incredible four decade-long career, and the brilliant book that launched her into this year’s International Booker Prize.
Born in Guadeloupe in 1934, Condé’s life has been defined by her nomadic life spent moving around the globe, and witnessing some of the world’s biggest political and cultural upheavals. The years she spent in Africa, Europe, and North America as a teacher and writer define much of her work. Years spent in West African countries such as Mali, for instance, provided the inspiration for her worldwide bestselling novel Segu, which in turn won her the African Literature Prize.
Using her unique, globally-informed lens, Condé explores Caribbean history and African diaspora throughout her work. This latest work is both poignant and thoughtful. The Gospel According to the New World tells the surprising story of the “miracle” Baby Pascal, born with a strikingly beautiful, brown complexion, and gray-green eyes like the sea. But his birth brings countless questions, rumours, and mystery as well, leading Pascal to set off in search of his own origins. Could he be the child of God? Will he be able to change the fate of humanity? And what will the New World Gospel reveal?
In 2020, Condé was crowned the winner of the inaugural Academy Prize, the ‘Alternative Nobel’, which provided an overdue acknowledgement of her long and rich literary career so far. Her previous works published with World Editions have also received major acclaim from readers and critics, with her novels The Wondrous and Tragic Life of Ivan and Ivana (2020) and Waiting for the Waters to Rise (2021) making the longlist for the 2021 National Book Award for Translated Literature in the US.
The latest news from the International Booker Prize comes as no shock or surprise — Condé’s status as the Grand Dame of Caribbean literature is only further solidified with this longlisting, and we look forward to finding out which books continue onto the shortlist on 18th April.
Praise for The Gospel According to the New World:
“The novel (The Gospel According to the New World) follows a mixed-race, Christ-like figure who travels the world in search of meaning and belonging. Along the way, he encounters revolutionaries, tyrants, false prophets and actual Judases — not to mention a string of passionate lovers. It feels like a capstone work.” —Anderson Tepper, The New York Times
“This inventive bildungsroman follows Pascal, an abandoned child in Martinique whose colorful life mirrors that of Jesus Christ, as he seeks to understand his purpose.”—The New York Times
“The leading Caribbean writer’s latest, compelling novel does not preach but it does instruct.”—Irish Times