Ex-film director wins France's top literary prize

AFP - [email protected]
Ex-film director wins France's top literary prize
Photo by Damien MEYER / AFP

France's top literary prize, the Goncourt, was awarded on Tuesday to former film director Jean-Baptiste Andrea for his novel Veiller sur elle (Watch Over Her) set in Italy's fascist years.


Andrea, 52, has made an impact in the English-speaking world with two well-received translations, A Hundred Million Years and a Day and Devils and Saints.

His latest 600-page epic focuses on a sculptor and his romance with a woman from a much wealthier background.

Andrea has forged an unusual path, starting off as a screen writer and film director in a career in cinema saw him make a handful of movies including the 2006 black comedy Big Nothing starring the famed Friends actor David Schwimmer.


He turned to novels relatively late in his 40s, with his first book published in 2017. Watch Over Her is his fourth novel.

"I wanted to write something bigger than what I had written before, to leave behind all the limits that I had initially imposed on myself in 20 years of cinema... but which I had also paradoxically imposed on my first three novels," he told France Inter radio in late October.

"It's a homage to Italy, the country of my ancestors," he added.

In a century-old tradition, the Goncourt winner is revealed at lunchtime at the Drouant restaurant in central Paris.

As well as prestige, the award guarantees a boost in sales - on average over the past 20 years, to around 400,000 copies.

Andrea beat the favourite Eric Reinhardt's stylistically bold novel about a woman's decline after leaving her family.

Reinhardt's Sarah, Susanne et l'ecrivain (Sarah, Susanne and the Writer) tells the story of a woman driven to despair by an awful husband.



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