PARIS (AFP) — Italy's Sandro Veronesi picked up France's prestigious Femina prize for best foreign author Monday, while Jean-Louis Fournier won the French writer's prize with a book on having handicapped children.
Veronesi was awarded the prize for his 2005 best-seller "Caos calmo" (Quiet Chaos), which has been turned into a movie shown at European film festivals this year and about to hit screens across the continent.
In the book, which won Veronesi Italy's pre-eminent Strega prize, a television network executive -- played by star actor Nanni Moretti in the movie -- responds to the death of his wife by spending his days in a park outside his daughter's school, waiting for her to come out.
On picking up his prize, Veronesi, 49, paid homage to fellow Italian writer Roberto Saviano, the author of a best-selling mafia expose, "Gomorrah", who now lives in fear of death.
Saviano, whose book has been translated into 42 languages and made into a film that picked up a Cannes film festival prize this year and is in the running for an Oscar, has lived under police protection for two years.
"I'm thinking of this 28-year-old who's been sentenced to death. He's a symbol for us all, he's touched the sick heart of our society," said Veronesi.
Fournier, a prolific author now aged 69, won the Femina for "Ou on va, papa?" (Where are we going, Dad?"), a 150-page book written with a light touch as a message to his two heavily handicapped children, Mathieu and Thomas.
Through often brief scenes and summary anecdotes, he recounts the birth of the children, the suffering of the parents, and the happy moments that "made the stay bearable".
The book, already a best-seller in French bookshops, has also been shortlisted for the country's top literary prize, the Goncourt, to be announced November 10.
"It's the children in a way who've won the prize, they who never had anything," Fournier said, adding that he received several upsetting letters each day from readers.
France's book awards season opened last week with the French Academy award that went to writer-diplomat Marc Bressent for "La derniere conference" (The Last Conference).
After the Femina comes the Medicis on Wednesday, to be followed by the Goncourt and the Renaudot in a week.
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