Three Strong Women

Last updated
Three Strong Women
Three Strong Women.jpg
First edition
Author Marie NDiaye
Original titleTrois Femmes puissantes
Publisher Éditions Gallimard
Publication date
20 August 2009
Published in English
26 April 2012
ISBN 978-0857050564

Three Strong Women (French : Trois Femmes puissantes) (2009) is a novel by the French writer Marie NDiaye. It won the 2009 Prix Goncourt, France's most prestigious literary award. [1] The English translation by John Fletcher was published in April 2012 in the UK by MacLehose Press, and in August 2012 by Knopf in the USA.


According to the description by Maya Jaggi in The Guardian : "Moving mainly between France and Senegal, this novel explores survival, inheritance and the feared repetition of history – within families, as between peoples. Its three heroines have an unassailable sense of their own self-worth, while their psychological battles have an almost mythic resonance." [2]


The novel is composed of three accounts and is a history of three women, Norah, Fanta and Khady, who reject humiliation and embrace life. The unifying theme is that they are threatened or abandoned by men.

The first story is inspired in part by Ndiaye's own life, and is built around the departure of a Senegalese father from France, taking with him only son Sony, and abandoning his wife and daughters (Ndiaye's Senegalese father left when she was a year old, in a similar way). One daughter, Norah, now married and with children of her own, is working as a lawyer in Paris. She is summoned to Dakar by her absent father, supposedly a successful businessman. On arrival, she discovers her brother Sony is in prison for the alleged murder of his stepmother, and the father — whom she still fears and dislikes — wants her to defend him in court. He is now broke. Sony then alleges from prison that his father was actually the murder, leaving Norah to challenge her father...but the account ends there.

The second story takes place in the Gironde in France (where Marie Ndiaye actually owns a house), where Fanta, a teacher, and her academic husband Rudy have a serious argument, and he shouts "go back where you came from". This racist remark has repercussions for their relationship. An earlier racist incident in their lives, which led to them fleeing Senegal where he had been teaching in the International School, is revealed. The theme is of patriarchal control, and a life unravelling — as in the first story, control over children is an issue.

The third part returns to a maid, Khady Demba, working in Norah's father's house in Dakar. Despite getting "a minuscule helping of the good things in life" she is nourished by determination, and memories of a caring grandmother. Khady is later widowed and abandoned, and arrives in France after an arduous journey as a traumatized, clandestine migrant. She knows only Fanta, a distant cousin. The weak man in this tale is a lover who abandons her.

Awards and honours

See also

Related Research Articles

Amin Maalouf Francophone Lebanese writer based in France

Amin Maalouf is a Lebanese-born French author who has lived in France since 1976. Although his native language is Arabic, he writes in French, and his works have been translated into over 40 languages.

Mariama Bâ Senegalese novelist

Mariama Bâ was a Senegalese author and feminist, whose French-language novels were both translated into more than a dozen languages. Born in Dakar, she was raised a Muslim.

Cheikh Anta Diop University University located in Dakar, Senegal

Cheikh Anta Diop University, also known as the University of Dakar, is a university in Dakar, Senegal. It is named after the Senegalese physicist, historian and anthropologist Cheikh Anta Diop and has an enrollment of over 60,000.

Doudou NDiaye Rose Senegalese musician

Doudou Ndiaye Rose was a Senegalese drummer, composer and band leader, and was the recognized modern master of Senegal's traditional drum, the sabar. He was the father of a musical dynasty that includes some of the most successful traditional musicians of contemporary West Africa. He was one of the first musicians to bring Senegalese traditional music to the attention of the world.

Marie NDiaye French novelist and playwright

Marie NDiaye is a French novelist and playwright. She published her first novel, Quant au riche avenir, when she was 17. She won the Prix Goncourt in 2009. Her play Papa doit manger is the sole play by a living female writer to be part of the repertoire of the Comédie française.

Cinema of Senegal

The cinema of Senegal is a relatively small film industry which experienced its prime from the 1960s through to the early 1980s, but has since declined to less than five feature films produced in the last ten years.

Karim Wade Senegalese politician

Karim Meïssa Wade is a Senegalese politician who served in the government of Senegal as Minister of State for International Cooperation, Regional Development, Air Transport, and Infrastructure from May 2009 to April 2012. He is the son of Abdoulaye Wade, who was President of Senegal from 2000 to 2012. Before joining the government, Karim Wade was President of the National Agency for the Organisation of the Islamic Conference and served as an advisor to his father. He was widely seen as a possible successor to his father as president, and his father was widely believed to be grooming him for the position.

Women in Senegal

Women in Senegal have a traditional social status as shaped by local custom and religion. According to 2005 survey, the female genital mutilation prevalence rate stands at 28% of all women in Senegal aged between 15 and 49.

Abdoul Mbaye is a Senegalese banker and politician who was Prime Minister of Senegal from April 2012 until September 2013. He is a technocrat who was appointed prime minister by President Macky Sall following the latter's win in the 2012 presidential election.

Diana Evans British novelist

Diana Omo Evans is a British novelist, journalist and critic who was born and lives in London. Evans has written three full-length novels. Her first novel, 26a, published in 2005, won the Orange Award for New Writers, the Betty Trask Award and the deciBel Writer of the Year award. Her third novel Ordinary People was shortlisted for the 2019 Women's Prize for Fiction and won the 2019 South Bank Sky Arts Award for Literature.

Angèle Diabang Brener is a screenwriter, director and film producer from Senegal.

Aminata Mbengue Ndiaye politician from Senegal

Aminata Mbengue Ndiaye is a Senegalese politician. In 2012, she was appointed Minister of Livestock and Animal Production in the government of Prime Minister Abdou Mbaye and from 2014 under the government of Prime Minister Mahammad Boun Abdallah Dionne till 5 April 2019, when she was named Minister of Fishery and Maritime Economy Ministre des Pêches et de l’Economie maritime]. She also serves as mayor of Louga, and is currently chair of the women's movement of the Socialist Party of Senegal. Previously, Ndiaye served as Minister of Women, Children and the Family, as well as Minister of Social Development and National Solidarity under the presidency of Abdou Diouf.

Mamy Ndiaye is a Senegalese women's international footballer who plays as a forward. She is a member of the Senegal women's national football team, and has played for IFK Kalmar in Sweden, Zaragoza CFF in Spain and Inter Arras FCF in France.

Dr. Marie-Louise Correa is a Senegalese politician, a doctor and former minister of the Senegalese government, who was elected in July 2002 as president of the World Scout Committee following the 36th World Scout Conference in Thessaloníki, Greece, from 2002 to 2005. She had served as chair of the Africa Scout Region until 1999.

Fatou Kiné Camara Senegalese jurist and feminist

Fatou Kiné Camara is a Senegalese lawyer and women's rights campaigner. The daughter of a magistrate and government minister, Camara has a doctorate in law and works as a lecturer and researcher. She has supported campaigns for reform in many areas of the law and is particularly involved in attempting to increase the availability of abortions and free legal advice.

Adja Ndèye Boury Ndiaye is a Senegalese writer. Her married name is Gueye.

<i>Atlantics</i> 2019 supernatural romantic drama film

Atlantics is a 2019 internationally co-produced supernatural romantic drama film directed by Mati Diop, in her feature directorial debut. It was selected to compete for the Palme d'Or at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival. Diop made history when the film premiered at Cannes, becoming the first black woman to direct a film featured in competition at the festival.

Khady Koita is a Senegalese activist against violence against women and female genital mutilation.

Thérèse King was a Senegalese politician. She was the Minister of Public Health from April 5th, 1988 to March 27th, 1990 under the presidency of Abdou Diouf. She was one of the first women government ministers in Senegal, and the second female Minister of Public Health after Marie Sarr Mbodj.


  1. 1 2 "Le Prix Goncourt". Académie Goncourt . Retrieved 16 October 2011.
  2. Maya Jaggi, "Three Strong Women by Marie NDiaye – review", The Guardian, 6 July 2012.
  3. Press Association (12 June 2014). "Vasquez celebrates book prize win". Irish Independent. Retrieved 12 June 2014.