PARIS (AFP) — France's most prestigious literary award, the Prix Goncourt, was awarded on Monday to Gilles Leroy for "Alabama Song", a fictional autobiography of F. Scott Fitzgerald's wife Zelda.
Leroy retraced the wild parties of the "roaring" 1920s in the United States, Zelda Fitzgerald's volcanic relationship with her novelist-husband, and her decades-long battle with mental illness.
"Alabama Song" was chosen among five finalists for the prize recognizing the best novel of the year.
Reacting to the news, Leroy paid tribute to his heroine, saying "this prize is also hers".
Zelda Fitzgerald "was sacrificed, her talent was never fully recognized," Leroy told journalists. Fitzgerald was diagnosed with schizophrenia and died at the age of 47 in a fire in a mental home in the United States.
"I love people who push their desire to the extreme. This is what distinguishes them, this yearning strength, this desire to emancipate themselves," he added.
A former journalist, Leroy, 48, has written a dozen works including short stories since the publication in 1987 of his first novel "Habibi".
The writer won four out of six votes from the jury with the other two cast in favour of Olivier Adam, 33, for "A l'abri de rien" (Sheltered from Nothing), a tale of a woman awaiting passage to England in French migrant camps.
The 2006 Goncourt prize went to first-time American author Jonathan Littell for his 900-page work "Les Bienveillantes" (The Well-Meaning Ones) written in French as the fictional memoirs of a German SS officer.
The Prix Renaudot went to Daniel Pennac, 62, for "Chagrin d'ecole" (School Blues), recounting the author's experiences as a self-professed class dunce in France.
The two prizes kick off the French literary season with the Femina, Medicis and Interallie prizes to be awarded next week.
Copyright © 2013 AFP. All rights reserved. More »