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Posted November 4, 2009
Haitian-Born Laferrire, the First Canadian Writer 
to Win France's Prestigious Mdicis Literary Prize
dany laferriere
Haitian-born Montreal writer Dany Laferrire displays his book L'nigme du retour after he received the Mdicis literary award in Paris November 4, 2009. (Photograph by Philippe Wojazer, Reuters)
MONTREAL - Montreal-based Dany Laferrire is the winner of the Prix Mdicis 2009 for his novel L'nigme du retour (ditions Boral).

The book is a mix of haikus and narrative and describes the Haitian-Canadian author's return to Haiti following the death of his father.

Laferrire receives 30,000 euros, almost $47,000. He is the first Canadian to win the Mdicis, France's literary prize celebrating original writing, since 1966, when Marie-Claire Blais won for Une saison dans la vie d' Emmanuel.

(The book) reflects on exile, Laferrire said in a video interview recorded by publisher Grasset & Fasquelle in France in September. It is full of contradictions and contrasts. When I returned to Haiti I wanted to distance myself from its history. I took my notebook and I wrote down what was happening now.

L'nigme du retour currently tops The Gazette's best-seller list in the French-language category.

The Prix Mdicis is a French literary award given to a writer with exceptional talent who has not yet attained worldwide fame. A prize is awarded for both national and international fiction and one for non-fiction.

Laferrire immigrated to Canada from Haiti in 1978 and now divides his time between Montreal, New York and Miami. He has written 16 novels, including Comment faire l' amour avec un ngre sans se fatiguer (1987) and the children's book Je suis fou de Vava, which won a Governor General's Literary Award in 2006.

Two of his novels, Comment faire l' amour and Vers le sud (2006) have been made into feature films.

His novel I Am a Japanese Writer, (the translation of Je suis un crivain japonais, 2008) about a novelist suffering from writer's block who finds out he is famous in Japan for a book he never wrote, will be published in English next fall. Laferrire is also the recipient of the 2010 Blue Metropolis International Literary Grand Prix. It awards him $10,000.

Other Prix Mdicis winners were American author Dave Eggers for What Is the What, the odyssey of a young Sudanese refugee, and Alain Ferry for Memoire d'un fou d' Emma, an ode to fictional character Emma Bovary and author Gustave Flaubert.

© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette. Published Wednesday, November 4, 2009.
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