Marie NDiaye, a novelist and playwright was born to a French mother and Senegalese father in Pithiviers, France. When her father headed back to Senegal on his own, NDiaye and her mother remained in the French suburbs. She later went on to study linguistics at the Sorbonne, however, her writing gifts came very early in life. NDiaye started writing at around 12 years old and hit the ground running five years later, publishing her first book Quant Au Riche Avenir (or “The Rich Future”) at 17 after she was discovered by Jerome Lindon, the founder of Editions de Minuit.
NDiaye, 50, has since racked up an impressive collection of books: Trois Femmes Puissantes (Three Strong Women), Ladivine: A Novel, Self-Portrait in Green, En Famille, La Sorcière, All My Friends, Rosie Carpe, Coração Apertado, Hilda and many more. The novelist’s tales often center around female characters who are hard pills to swallow—women who grapple with race and assimilation in Western society and who take on controversial roles within their romantic, familial and social relationships.
While not all of her material has been heralded by English-speaking audiences as immediately as Francophone audiences, her psychological drama, My Heart Hemmed In—the translated version of her 2007 novel Mon cœur a l’etroit—was released in 2017 to international fanfare. The same sort of gravity surrounds her numerous accolades. In addition to being awarded the prestigious Prix Femina literary prize for her novel Rosie Carpe in 2001 and winning the Prix-Goncourt (a.k.a. France’s most prestigious literary award) for Three Strong Women in 2009, NDiaye is the only living female playwright to have a play (Papa doit manger) included in the Comédie-Française repertoire. NDiaye now resides in Berlin, where she continues to churn out works that will etch her literary presence in stone.