22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Wilfried N’Sondé

Portrait Wilfried N'Sondé
© Hartwig Klappert

Wilfried N’Sondé was born in Brazzaville, capital of the present-day Republic of Congo, in 1968. In 1973, after his father received a grant from a Parisian art school, the whole family moved to the outskirts of Paris. Under the impact of the adverse living conditions in the banlieues and working in menial jobs at a market, N’Sondé began writing poems and short prose pieces – unpublished traces of a private »educational revolution«, which eventually led him to the Sorbonne and the Université Paris X-Nanterre, where he studied political science until 1991. After travelling widely with sojourns in London, Utrecht and Madrid, he settled in Berlin, eventually followed by his family.

N’Sondé started as a musician with a mixture of Trash rock and Afro-punk. He also managed numerous Turkish youth projects in association with a youth initiative in the Charlottenburg district where he was living.

In 2007, he made his literary début with the novel »Le cœur des enfants léopards« (t: The heart of the leopard children), which was published in German translation the following year. It depicts the identity crisis of a young African immigrant in Paris, who cannot seem to find his place. After his girlfriend leaves him and he gets into a drunken stupor, he finds himself in the middle of a police interrogation, accused of a crime he can barely remember. In his cell, the protagonist desperately circles around his own identity. Following the police questioning, he feels exposed, and memories stream over him along with the voices of his ancestors, which remind him of a country of origin unknown to him, proclaiming honour, pride and magical powers. With intensity and musicality, N’Sondé sketches a contemporary portrait of the painful merging of cultures. The novel is »like a cry of wrath and love«, said the author in retrospect. »I tried to give a face, a heart and emotions to one section of the population.«

N’Sondé has been awarded the Senghor Prize for Literary Creation and the Prize of the Five Continents of the Francophonie, whose jury remarked: »With relentlessly exact poetic language – and a diction which makes the book as moving as it is thrilling – Wilfried N’Sondé explores pain and love, belonging, violence, desire and fear.« The author is the father of two children and lives in Berlin. He is currently working on an album of chansons. His latest novel will be published next year.

© international literature festival berlin