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The 2018 French literary prizes

The winners of this year’s literary prizes have been announced throughout the last three days, full of homages, tributes, and surprises.

The panels of both the Femina and Renaudot prizes chose to tribute Charlie Hebdo, more than three years after the attacks, by awarding respectively Philippe Lançon’s Le Lambeau (Gallimard), and Valérie Manteau’s Le Sillon (Le Tripode) The choice of awarding Le Lambeau as the winning novel of the Femina prize was indeed a strong homage to Charlie Hebdo, as Philippe Lambeau was present during the 2015 terrorist attacks, where he was gravely injured. In Le Lambeau, he chose to tell about his traumatic experience and to relate the physical and mental healing process he underwent to overpass his trauma. It is a story of resilience, both in the book and in real life, as the Femina prize acceptance ceremony was his first public appearance since the 2015 attacks. He also received a special prize from the Renaudot jury.

Another Charlie Hebdo-related author was awarded this week: the ‘surprise’ winner of the Prix Renaudot, Valérie Manteau, was a member of the newspapers’ team between 2008 and 2013. Valérie Manteau, the true surprise of this week, as her book Le Sillon, was not shortlisted among the finalists for the Renaudot. Le Sillon is her second novel, and it follows a young French woman in Istanbul investigating about Hrant Dink, a journalist who wrote in the Turkish newspaper Agos (translated as Le Sillon in French) and who was murdered in 2007. Depicting the life and place in society of the people of Istanbul, her novel tells about the brutal irruption of violence in the life of a young woman, implicitly telling about the author’s own life in the Turkish capital and beyond. Her publisher, Le Tripode, is a small publishing house that puts forward the author’s freedom above all: you can learn more about it here.

The Prix Médicis went to Pierre Guyotat’s novel, Idiotie (Grasset). Forty-eight years after he almost won the same prize for his novel Eden Eden Eden (Gallimard), he was awarded the prize. In this autobiographic novel, Guyotat recalls three years of his twenties, between 1959 and 1962, during which he had an urge to express rebellion and freedom in the troubled context of the Algerian war. He also won a special prize, awarded by the Femina jury, to honor his entire literary career: a double distinction for the 78-year-old author.  

The Médicis prizes for the best foreign novel and for the best essay were also awarded this Wednesday. Rachel Kushner, an American novelist, won the Médicis étranger for her novel The Mars Room (in French Le Mars Club, translated by Sylvie Schneiter, Stock). The Prix Médicis for essays was attributed to Stefano Massini, for Les Frères Lehman, translated by Nathalie Bauer (Globe). Two international authors were therefore awarded during this French literary week.

Congratulations to the laureates! 

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