US writer's Holocaust novel takes French award

27th October 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Oct 26, 2006 (AFP) - A 900-page blockbuster on the Holocaust, written in French by first-time American author Jonathan Littell, scooped the first award of France's hectic literary prize season on Thursday.

PARIS, Oct 26, 2006 (AFP) - A 900-page blockbuster on the Holocaust, written in French by first-time American author Jonathan Littell, scooped the first award of France's hectic literary prize season on Thursday.

'Les Bienveillantes', which shot into the bestseller charts upon its release this summer, was awarded the prize by the Académie Française, whose jury chose the novel by an absolute majority, the French institution said.

The fictional memoirs of a German SS officer, the book — whose title means 'The Well-meaning Ones' — caused a critical sensation in France with its unflinching, first-person portrayal of the Nazi extermination of the Jews.

The novel is also on the shortlist for about five other prestigious awards to be announced in France in the coming weeks, including the highly-coveted Goncourt.

It is also in the running for the Femina and Medicis awards on October 30, followed by the Goncourt and the Renaudot who name their laureates a week later, on November 6.

The 39-year-old author, who claims Sade, Flaubert and Bataille as his influences, was born in New York but raised and educated partly in France and now lives with his family in Barcelona.

His father, Robert Littell, is a spy fiction writer and former journalist who has lived in France since the 1970s.

Jonathan Littell spent many years working for the French charity Action Against Hunger, including in Bosnia, Chechnya and the Democratic Republic of Congo, before returning to start work on his novel.

His first, painstakingly-researched work has been described by reviewers as a "great fresco" told with "an extraordinary power of conviction", and its narrator as a truly Faustian incarnation of evil — though it also has its detractors.

Franco-German historian Peter Shoettler called it a "strange, monstrous book", explicit to the point of "pornography" on the horrors of the Holocaust, and jolted by anachronisms and a wooden rendition of wartime German culture.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

 

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