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The prestigious Grand Prix du roman de l’Académie française was won this Thursday, October 28 by the French writer François-Henri Désrable. “My master and my winner”, published by Gallimard editions, tells in a very subtle, poetic and humorous way the story of a love ending badly.

The immortals under the Cupola of the French Academy crowned a book whose title proudly bears a line from the poem “Are you brown or blonde” by Paul Verlaine: “For having made your heart my master and my winner” . Over 192 pages, it unfolds the melodrama of a love as passionate as it is illegitimate around Tina, Edgar and her best friend, Vasco. François-Henri Désrable particularly appealed to academics with his classic style playing with literary references and humor.

“I started writing when I was 18 after reading Belle du seigneur. And Albert Cohen won the Grand Prix for the novel in 1968. So I’m happy, ”remarked the winner after the award was announced.

Despite his young age, Désrable is no longer a stranger in the literary world. The novelist’s previous work, Un certain M. Piekielny, had succeeded in being selected for both the Prix Goncourt and the Prix Renaudot. Today, his novels are translated into a dozen languages.

From the start, his literary efforts were crowned with success. In 2012, at the age of 21, he won the Young French-Language Writer Prize for his short story on Danton’s death. The following year, the Académie Française encouraged him with the Prix Amic, a prize in support of literary creation, for You will show my head to the people. And his biography fictionalized on a mathematical prodigy who died in a duel, Évariste, he won the Biography Prize in 2015.

A romantic side also runs through the personal story of the novelist, grandson of a Venetian gondolier, a city where the writer lives regularly. Born in 1987 in Amiens where he was, like President Emmanuel Macron, a high school student at the private establishment La Providence, he spent part of his youth in a high school in Minnesota, in the United States, and first continued in as a professional player his father’s ice hockey tradition. After studying law, he gave up his thesis to devote himself fully to literature.

François-Henri Désrable won the Grand Prix, endowed with 10,000 euros, with great accuracy, in the third round of the ballot, with one more vote than for Gilles Martin-Chauffier’s Le Dernier Tribun (Grasset) and also dismissing the Senegalese Mohamed Mbougar Sarr and his novel La Plus Secrète Mémoire des hommes (Philippe Rey) which remains in the running for the Goncourt and Renaudot awards, the announcement of which is expected on November 3.

This annual French Academy Award was established in 1914 and first awarded in 1915. It has only been awarded three times to authors of African descent. In 2015, the Franco-Tunisian writers Hédi Kaddour (Les Prépondérants) and Algerian Boualem Sansal (2084. The end of the world) won a tie. And in 1996, the Franco-Cameroonian Calixthe Beyala (Les Honneurs perdus) became the first laureate from Black Africa to be celebrated as the author of the novel deemed the best of the year by the French Academy.

Ref: https://www.rfi.fr