Migrants, Myanmar, Zelda Fitzgerald tipped for France's most prestigious book awards

2nd November 2007, Comments 0 comments

2 November 2007, PARIS (AFP) - The tale of a French woman adrift among down-and-out migrants awaiting a passage to England is one of five novels shortlisted to receive France's most prestigious literary award, the Goncourt, next week.

2 November 2007

PARIS (AFP) - The tale of a French woman adrift among down-and-out migrants awaiting a passage to England is one of five novels shortlisted to receive France's most prestigious literary award, the Goncourt, next week.

Up-and-coming French author Olivier Adam, 33, travelled to meet the Iraqis, Afghans and Chechens living in tawdry camps and squats in France's Channel ports of Calais and Cherbourg to research "A l'abri de rien" (Sheltered from Nothing).

His fifth novel centres on a young woman whose life is turned upside down after she takes on volunteer work with migrants in her hometown, drifting away from her family into a violent and dangerous shadowland.

Also shortlisted for the Goncourt, whose award Monday kicks off a hectic French literary season, is "Alabama Song", a fictional autobiography of Zelda Fitzgerald, wife of, and inspiration for US novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald.

For the novel, Gilles Leroy, 48, slipped into Zelda's skin to retrace the wild parties of the 1920s, her volcanic relationship with her husband, and her decades-long, losing battle with mental illness.

Critics says this year's Goncourt is wide open, after a 2006 prize swept by the first-time American author Jonathan Littell, with a 900-page blockbuster on the Holocaust.

Written in French, the fictional memoirs of a German SS officer, "Les Bienveillantes" -- "The Well-meaning Ones" -- caused a critical sensation with its unflinching, first-person portrayal of the Nazi extermination of the Jews.

Of the three other novels in the running, "Le Rapport de Brodeck" (Brodeck's Report) by Philippe Claudel, 48 -- about the collective murder of a villager, somewhere in eastern Europe just after World War II -- also offers a haunting meditation on the Holocaust.

Married at 13, widowed at 18, the 12th-century heroine of "La passion selon Juette" (The Passion According to Juette) by Clara Dupont-Monod, 34, takes on religious bigotry to find a place in society.

Finally, Michele Lesbre, 60, completes the shortlist with "Le canape rouge" (The Red Couch), the tale of a woman who sets out across Siberia on the traces of an old lover and their shared dreams.

Five novels are vying for the Renaudot prize, also awarded Monday, including "Birmane" (Burmese) by the journalist Christophe Ono-dit-Biot, the cut-throat quest of an amateur reporter trying to clinch an interview with a Myanmar opium trafficker.

The following week, judges award the Femina, Medicis and Interallie prizes, with the end of a trilogy on the 1994 Rwandan genocide -- "La strategie des antilopes" (The Antelopes' Strategy) by Jean Hatzfeld -- a hot favourite for the last two.

AFP

Subject: French news

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