Joining the likes of Marcel Proust, Simone de Beauvoir, Marguerite Duras, and 2014 Nobel Prize winner Patrick Modiano, Mathias Énard was awarded the Prix Goncourt today for his novel Boussole.
Énard’s winning novel is about an Austrian musicologist and insomniac who waxes philosophical from his sickbed about Europe’s relationship with the Middle East and his own unrequited love. Boussole was one of four books shortlisted for the award, all of which dealt with the Middle East and the West’s relationship with the Arab world in one way or another. Énard’s 2008 book Zone, a single sentence that runs on for 517 pages.
To date, only Zone and Rue des Voleurs (“Street Of Thieves”) have been translated into English, both by Charlotte Mandell. Hopefully Boussole (“Compass” in English) is on the docket for translation soon.
The Prix Goncourt comes with a 10€ prize, the same purse money since the award bowed in 1903, but also ensures a steep uptick in book sales and the financial rewards that ensue. The Prix is considered one of the most prestigious of France’s “big six” literary awards, along with L’Académie Française’s Grand Prix du Roman, which gets a slightly larger prize of 7,500€. The Prix Femina, which is awarded by an all-woman jury of 22, offers no prize money, nor does the Prix Renaudot, France’s “second-best” literary award after the Goncourt. The Prix Décembre—which is a respected prize but not considered one of the big six—rewards its recipients with 30,000€. Énard won in 2008 for Zone.