Neustadt Prize Laureate: Boubacar Boris Diop

Photo by Gavyn Redd

Award-winning Senegalese writer Boubacar Boris Diop (b. 1946) is one of today’s most prominent African novelists, playwrights, and essayists. As the winner of the 2022 Neustadt International Prize for Literature, the jury commended his most celebrated novel, Murambi: The Book of Bones (2006), which was inspired by Diop’s stay in Rwanda in 1998 after the genocide against the Tutsi and originally published in French in 2000. Diop has also won the Senegalese Republic Grand Prize (1990) for Les Tambours de la mémoire and the Prix Tropiques (1997) for Le Cavalier et son ombre. His two most recent novels, Malaanum lëndëm (2022) and Bàmmeelu Kocc Barma (2017), written in Wolof, were published by EJO Editions, a publishing house specializing in literature written in Senegalese national languages, which Diop founded in 2016. Diop has also created Céytu, a literary collection that aims to publish literary masterpieces from all languages and all cultures into Wolof; Paris’s Editions Zulma released the first series of translated works by such authors as Mariama Bâ, Aimé Césaire, and J. M. G. Le Clézio in 2016. Diop himself translated Césaire’s Une saison au Congo into Wolof. In addition to EJO Editions, Diop founded Lu defu waxu, the first and only online weekly newspaper in Wolof.

You should know that the honor you are [granting to Boubacar Boris Diop] with the Neustadt Prize is enormous in recognizing his struggle for championing free ideas. Few, if any, of us have sacrificed to that level in the quest for truth as Boris has. The message you are sending with the Neustadt is that his life’s struggle for truth and knowledge has not been in vain. —Bojana Coulibaly