Former film director wins France’s top literary prize for novel based on fascist Italy

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France’s top literary prize, the Goncourt, was awarded on Tuesday to former film director Jean-Baptiste Andreae for his novel “Veiller sur elle” (“Watch Over Her”), based on Italy’s dark fascist years.

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Andrea, 52, has made an impact in the English-speaking world with two highly acclaimed translations, “A Hundred Million Years and a Day” and “Devils and Saints.”

His latest 600-page epic focuses on a sculptor and his romance with a woman from a very wealthy background.

Andrea has carved an unusual path, beginning as a screenwriter and film director in a career in cinema that has seen him create several films, including the 2006 black comedy “Big Nothing” starring famed “Friends” actor David Schwimmer.

He turned to novels relatively late in his 40s, with his first book published in 2017. “Watch Over Her” is her fourth novel.

He said, “I wanted to write something bigger than what I had written before, to leave behind all the limitations that I had initially imposed on myself during my 20 years in cinema… but which I had paradoxically The first three novels were also imposed on me,” he said. told France Inter radio in late October.

“It’s a tribute to Italy, the country of my ancestors,” he said.

In a century-old tradition, the Goncourt winner is revealed at lunch at the Drouant restaurant in central Paris.

As well as prestige, this award guarantees an increase in sales – on average, about 400,000 copies over the past 20 years.

Andrea outshines Eric Reinhardt’s stylistically bold novel about a woman’s decline after abandoning her family.

Reinhardt’s “Sarah, Suzanne et l’Ecrivain” (“Sarah, Suzanne and the Writer”) tells the story of a woman driven to despair by a terrible husband.

In a sign of the strength of the race, the jury awarded the prize in the 14th round of voting. Upon arriving at the restaurant, Andrea said, “It’s a very emotional moment, I’m drying my tears in the taxi.”

competitive award

There are four finalists for the award each year.

Also in contention was Gaspard Koenig, who had previously focused on philosophical essays, and won many admirers with “Hummus”, the story of two young farm workers protesting intensive farming.

But one of the contenders, Nège Sinno, had no chance of winning due to a long-running rivalry with another prize, the Prix Femina, which was abolished in 1904, a year after Goncourt, because of the open sexism of its founders, Jules and Made to challenge. Edmond de Goncourt.

Sinno won the Prix Femina on Monday for her story of incest and sexual violence, “Triste Tigre” (Sad Tiger) — effectively ousting her from the Goncourt by the unwritten rules of the competition.

Immediately after Goncourt, and also in the Drouot restaurant, Renaudot’s prize is awarded, a much more unexpected prize.

Initially started as a joke by journalists in the 1920s to waste time waiting for the Goncourt jury, the Renaudot is now considered one of France’s top prizes.

The award was given to celebrated novelist Ann Scott for her novel “Les Insolents”, about a woman in her forties who leaves Paris to reinvent her life.

In his early career, Scott was a model, a drummer in a punk band and a regular on the underground Parisian night scene. He began writing at the age of 29, notably writing the novels “Asphyxia” and then “Superstar”.

The Renaudot Prize has not been without controversy over the years, with many accusing its jurors of handing out the prize to their friends in the glitzy literary world of Paris.

This includes awarding its 2013 Essay Award to Gabriel Matzneff, who wrote for decades about his preference for sex with children and faced a rape investigation after the publication of the book “Consent”, which has now been made into a film. Has been.


See moreMeet Jean-Baptiste Andreae, winner of France’s prestigious Goncourt Prize

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