Page last updated at 16:21 GMT, Monday, 2 November 2009

Landmark for French literary gong

Marie NDiaye
NDiaye said she was pleased to be a female winner of the award

Marie NDiaye has become the first black woman to win France's leading literary prize, the Goncourt.

The 42-year-old was honoured for her novel Trois Femmes Puissantes (Three Powerful Women), a saga set in both Africa and Europe.

Frenchwoman NDiaye, whose father is Senegalese and mother French, said: "This prize is an unexpected reward for 25 years of persistence."

She becomes the first woman in a decade to be awarded the Goncourt.

Nominal prize fund

"I am very happy to be a woman receiving the Goncourt," said NDiaye at the awards ceremony, which by tradition took place in a Parisian restaurant.

"The book's success was already a miracle of sorts," she added, referring to her novel attaining best seller status in France when it was published earlier this year.

NDiaye, who published her first novel at the age of 17, has also gained a reputation as a screenwriter and playwright.

She moved to Berlin in 2007 after President Nicholas Sarkozy won the election, saying she finds France under his rule "monstrous" and "vulgar".

The Goncourt Prize, which was first handed out in 1903, awards the best new novel in French literature.

The accolade comes with a prize fund of just 10 Euros (£9.04) but is a guarantee of a boost in book sales and celebrity status.

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