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Tue Nov 3, 2015, 09:22 PM

France's top book prize goes to tale of opium-fuelled dream

AFP - 4 Nov 2015 at 00:40


French author Mathias Enard poses with his book "Boussole" (Compass) next to French authors Philippe Claudel (L) and Regis Debray at the Drouant restaurant in Paris after he was awarded with the Goncourt Prize on November 3, 2015



PARIS - A book about a night of opium-fuelled cross-cultural dreaming won France's most prestigious -- and lucrative -- literary prize Tuesday in a contest dominated by the West's fraught relationship with Islam.

Mathias Enard took the Goncourt prize with "Boussole" ("Compass", a poetic eulogy to the long history of cultural exchanges between East and West that flies in the face of cliches about the so-called clash of civilisations.

The novel runs the course of a night of opium-induced ruminations, and in the spirit of his high-flown odyssey, its burly author told a scrum of reporters that Lebanon's patron saint and the ghost of Algeria's most revered Islamic thinker may have had a hand in his victory.

"I have just come back from Algiers and Beirut," said Enard, 43, a scholar of both Arabic and Persian. "Maybe it was the luck that Sheikh Abderrahmane (a historian who died in 2010) and Saint George of Beirut brought me...

"I am extraordinarily happy," he added, after fighting his way into the Paris restaurant where the prize was decided over lunch by the Goncourt's jury, who are all elected for life.

The novel has already won the booksellers' prize -- the Nancy-Le Point -- for its nimbly erudite voyage from the Islamic enlightenment of the Middle Ages to present day Islamic State executioners in war-torn Syria.

Although Enard had been the clear critics' favourite, the daring and density of his writing -- the opening sentence lasts a page -- put others off.

The head of the jury, Bernard Pivot said after the award: "You have to be audacious to write a book like this, and you also have to be audacious to read it."

But the Barcelona-based Enard insisted his book was "very accessible... I write very simply. All you have to do is open the book to realise that it not as hard to read as some say."

An academic who has lived in Tehran, Berlin and Beirut, where his breakthrough novel "Zone" (2008) is set, Enard also won France's second most lucrative prize, the youth Goncourt, in 2010.

more: http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/world/753316/france-top-book-prize-goes-to-tale-of-opium-fuelled-dream

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Reply France's top book prize goes to tale of opium-fuelled dream (Original post)
ucrdem Nov 2015 OP
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Response to ucrdem (Original post)

Tue Nov 3, 2015, 09:34 PM

1. French writer Mathias Enard wins Goncourt Prize for his novel Boussole

FRANCE LITERATURE | 03 de Noviembre de 2015


French writer Mathias Enard (C) surrounded by media at the Drouant restaurant in Paris, France on November 3, 2015.

Paris, Nov 3 (EFE).- French writer Mathais Enard was awarded on Tuesday the 2015 Goncourt Prize for his novel Boussole, which, the judges said, aims to eliminate clichés about the East.

The 43-year-old's novel narrates the story of an orientalist from a first-person point of view.

It revolves around Franz Ritter, who lives in Vienna, suffers a serious disease and smokes opium in order to ease his pain.

As he is unable to sleep he relives his travels in the Orient, remembering the people he encountered.

Enard beat three other writers, including Hedi Kaddour (Les preponderants), who received the French Academy Prize last week.

The other two finalists were Tobie Nathan (Ce Pays Qui te Ressemble) and Nathalie Azaoulai (Titus n'aimait pas Berenice).

The Prix Goncourt is a prestigious prize that is awarded annually to the best French narrative.

http://www.laprensasa.com/309_america-in-english/3437549_french-writer-mathias-enard-wins-goncourt-prize-for-his-novel-boussole.html

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Tue Nov 3, 2015, 09:40 PM

2. Guardian: Énard wins Prix Goncourt for Boussole

Tuesday 3 November 2015 09.20 EST

France’s oldest and most prestigious literary accolade, the Prix Goncourt, has been awarded to the Arabic and Persian scholar Mathias Énard for his novel Boussole (Compass).

The choice of Énard, who has received a succession of prizes for his work since 2003, justified his status as this year’s favourite for the award.

Boussole recounts how Frantz Ritter, an insomniac Austrian musicologist, takes to his sickbed in Vienna with an unspecified illness. Here he spends his days and sleepless nights musing on issues including his unrequited love for a Frenchwoman and the relationship between Europe and the Middle East.

The novel, Énard’s ninth published work, was described by his publishers as a “poetic eulogy to the long history of cultural exchanges between east and west”.

The prize, given to “the best and most imaginative prose work of the year”, is awarded annually by the Académie Goncourt. Previous winners include Marcel Proust, Simone de Beauvoir, André Malraux, Marguerite Duras, Jonathan Littell and Michel Houellebecq.

Its reward comes not in the prize money – at just €10 it is roughly the same amount as the first Prix Goncourt 1903 - but the massive book sales it guarantees, making the author a fortune.

The award was announced on Tuesday by the 10-member Goncourt Académy jury after a traditional lunch of lamb stew and olives at the Drouant restaurant near the Opera Garnier in Paris.

The shortlist had been revealed by the jury in Tunis as a mark of support for Tunisia’s fledgling democracy after the attack on the city’s Bardo Museum in March, when jihadi gunmen murdered 21 tourists and a police officer.

All four contenders for the prize touched on the west’s turbulent relationship with Islam and the Arab world.


An early favourite was the Algerian writer Boualem Sansal’s novel, 2084, a dystopian vision of a future Islamic caliphate that, for obvious reasons, was compared to George Orwell’s 1984. However, Sansal, who had received support from former winner Houellebecq, did not make the final four.

Énard, 43, born in Niort in south-west France, spent many years travelling across the Middle East after his studies. He settled in Barcelona in 2000, where he worked as a translator and taught Arabic at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona.

His first novel, La Perfection du Tir, published in 2003, centred on a sniper during the civil war in an unnamed country believed to be based on Libya, and revealed his obsession with death. It received rave critical reviews and a French language prize.

In 2008, he published Zone, which included a 500-page single sentence monologue about European cruelty and was given similar critical acclaim and three literary prizes.

His short story Parle-leur de Batailles, de Rois et d’Éléphants (Tell them about Battles, Kings and Elephants) was awarded the Lycéens Goncourt prize, which is judged by high school students, in 2010.

Last year’s Goncourt prize went to Lydie Salvayre for Pas Pleurer (Don’t cry).

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/nov/03/frances-top-literary-prize-awarded-to-mathias-enard

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