Jean-Paul Dubois wins first Choix Goncourt UK

Students from different UK universities debate their favourite book from among the shortlist for the Prix Goncourt in the first UK Choix Goncourt event

The Choix Goncourt UK was announced on Friday 13 December at the French Ambassador’s Residence.

Academics, publishers, translators and members of the French community in London met to launch a programme that exists in 20 countries, promoting the teaching of French language and literature at universities and the translation and publication of contemporary French authors.

Some 100 students took part in the Choix Goncourt UK at seven universities around the country (Oxford, Cambridge, Warwick, Cardiff, Queen’s University Belfast, Aberdeen and St Andrews). They convened in reading groups to discuss the four books on the latest Académie Goncourt shortlist (Soif by Amélie Nothomb, La part du fils by Jean-Luc Coatalem, Tous les hommes n’habitent pas le monde de la même façon by Jean-Paul Dubois and Extérieur-Monde by Olivier Rolin).

Two delegates from each university then met in London on 13 December to debate their choices, on a panel chaired by Dame Marina Warner, President of the Royal Society of Literature. Jean-Paul Dubois’ novel, Tous les hommes n’habitent pas le monde de la même façon, was awarded the first Choix Goncourt UK, having won the Prix Goncourt in early November.

In her introductory speech, French Ambassador Catherine Colonna stressed the importance of culture in the Franco-British relationship and how crucial it is, in today’s world, “to see young people learning a foreign language, learning about another culture, another literature, ready to delve into words and stories from other shores”.

Dame Marina Warner spoke about the value of literature, its ability to open doors to the world, and quoted Albert Einstein, who famously said: “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales”.

The announcement was followed by two public events marking the centenary of Proust’s Goncourt prize for In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower in 1919. Professor Edward Hughes (Queen Mary University London) gave a lecture on Proust’s Goncourt, and Chantal Akerman’s film The Captive, inspired by Proust’s eponymous novel, was shown at the Ciné Lumière.

The Choix Goncourt UK is a partnership between the French Embassy’s Higher Education, Research and Innovation department, the Institut français du Royaume-Uni, the Académie Goncourt, the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie and the Maison Française d’Oxford. It was carried out with the help of Librairie La Page, the oldest Francophone bookshop in London.

Didier Decoin, from the Académie Goncourt, was unfortunately unable to attend the ceremony, but the Académie Goncourt has consistently lent its support throughout the Choix Goncourt UK programme.

The recipient of the prize will be invited to present his book in London and in partner universities in 2020. Tous les hommes n’habitent pas le monde de la même façon will be published in English by MacLehose Press.

Published on 17/12/2019

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