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Futuristic thriller wins top French literary award

作者:admin 2020-12-02

Futuristic thriller wins top French literary award

French writer Herve le Tellier and his book L'Anomalie Photo: AFP

A futuristic thriller about the double lives of passengers aboard a flight from Paris to New York won France's top literary award, the Prix Goncourt, which was awarded by video link on Monday.

The winner was announced two days after the French government eased a monthlong coronavirus lockdown, allowing bookshops, which had complained bitterly about the restrictions, to reopen.

Herve le Tellier, a 63-year-old former journalist and mathematician, won the country's oldest literary prize for L'Anomalie, his eighth novel.

Tellier had been tipped for glory with a page-turner of a novel in which a hit man, a Nigerian pop star and a writer land in New York only to find that their flight - and other versions of their selves - had already arrived three months earlier.

The former Reuters journalist said Monday that it could be read as a parable for life after Donald Trump.

"The idea is that since Trump is there and is the cause of the world's destruction, the vision of the book is to propose another version of the world, where Biden is president.

"That's one possible way of reading it," he said by video link.

Jury chairman Didier Decoin said that the novel had a "real cinematic dimension" and that he hoped it would be adapted for the big screen.

Because of the COVID-19 restrictions, the 10-person Goncourt jury was forced to forgo its traditional slap-up awards lunch at the Drouant restaurant in central Paris.

Instead, they huddled over video link from their homes.

They had been due to name the winner on November 10, but to show solidarity with booksellers they held off until bookshops were allowed to reopen at the weekend, along with vendors of other "non-essential" goods. Restaurants and cafes remain closed.

Tellier won eight of the 10 votes cast by the jurors.

Whiff of scandal

Two members of the academy chose the fictional memoirs of a senior Moroccan civil servant by Mael Renouard, a former speech writer for French ex-prime minister Francois Fillon.

Previous winners of the Prix Goncourt, which was set up in 1903, include Marcel Proust, Simone de Beauvoir, Marguerite Duras and Michel Houellebecq.

While Tellier gets a paltry 10 euros ($12) in prize money, the award invariably catapults the winner to the top of the best-seller lists.

The ceremony comes as the closed world of French literature comes under rare scrutiny following allegations of abuse against pedophile writer Gabriel Matzneff.

Matzneff won the Renaudot prize - widely seen as the runner-up to the Goncourt - in 2013, despite never making a secret of his preference for sex with adolescent girls and boys.

He faces a trial in 2021 on a charge of promoting pedophilia.

The New York Times on Saturday criticized "the insular world that dominates French literary life," saying the fact that it had changed little since Matzneff was charged showed "just how entrenched and intractable it really is."

The year 2020's Renaudot winner was Marie-Helene Lafon for L'Histoire du Fils (The Son's Story).

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