Marie NDiaye: “Dad is a reconciler, a peacemaker”

shis brother, twenty months his senior, has just been appointed Minister of Education and Youth. Marie NDiaye is one of the greatest voices of French literature in the world, Prix Goncourt in 2009 for Three powerful women (Gallimard) and Femina in 2001 for Rosie Carp (Midnight)she gave the foreword to her brother’s paperback essay The Black Condition, an essay on a French minority, and also participated in the exhibition “The Black Model” in Orsay, of which he advised by writing a short story. She is chair of the Porte-Dorée Literary Prize (awarded 21 May) which was relaunched by Pap Ndiaye, who until now had been detached from his teaching position at Sciences Po and led the National Museum of the History of Immigration, opposite the monument to the Marchand mission, that was General Mangin, ancestor of the new minister’s companion, Jeanne Mangin-Lazarus. General Mangin is the founder of the colonial army and the author, in 1910 of The dark force. After quoting Jeanne, during his transfer, Pap Ndiaye associated with Jean-Michel Blanquer, his sister Marie, who agreed to respond to his appointment.

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Le Point: What does your brother’s appointment to the government mean to you?

Marie N’Diaye Something, obviously, significant. I was so moved when Dad called me on Thursday to break the news and just before that asked me if I was sitting down or if I was walking down the street. A total surprise. I expected anything but this. I was disturbed and immediately thought of our Métis story. Because Dad worked hard, was given nothing, he took nothing for granted, the French school trained him well in the 1970s and 1980s.

He’s a brilliant mind, made great for what’s happening to him now. He is a good product of the Republic school. We both went to Lakanal high school in Sceaux, but before that we had been taught in ordinary institutions on the outskirts of Paris. Dad is a very good example of what the Republic school can produce. And our mother before him: her parents were farmers, she is the only one of her six-child siblings to have had her baccalaureate degree. She became a teacher and then a professor of natural sciences in college. My brother’s journey comes from there too. I, I am different, but what my brother managed to do, especially by going to the United States, is similar to what my mother did in her time: coming to Paris from Beauce, from a village near Pithiviers that was not served by the GEN, it was really the province.

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And from your father’s side?

He died four or five years ago. He was born in the 1930s to a very poor family in Saint-Louis in Senegal, and, as far as I know, was miraculously noticed by a teacher. He could be sent to Dakar, attend university, continue to his baccalaureate degree and then, thanks to a scholarship, come to France to study engineering. So he too is in a sense a product of democracy. He was born out of nowhere and succeeded thanks to school and his intelligence. Everything I say can be a golden legend, that’s what I know about him since we never lived with our father. He was the first civil engineer in sub-Saharan Africa and worked in the government of Abdou Diouf.

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Did your brother ask you for his decision?

Not at all ! He called his wife, Jeanne, who was in Canada for work, to help her make the decision, but I think everything was done very quickly. When we’re with Dad, we only talk about private matters.

How do you react to the attacks, especially from the far right, that are coming towards your brother?

But this is all wrong! He could be native, but that’s not even true. Dad, and that might displease the other side too, is really the man of consensus, or compromise, but in the good sense of the word. He always looks for common ground, is never radical or extreme, on the contrary. I don’t want to read or hear about these attacks. They are wrong, because Dad is neither a distributor nor a provocateur, but a reconciler, a peacemaker. We’ll blame him for that too, but it’s his temperament, his way of looking. Like me, by the way.

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