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France's top literary prize goes to Pierre Lemaitre

AFP

French novelist Pierre Lemaitre has won France's most prestigious annual literary award, the Prix Goncourt, for World War I epic 'Au revoir là-haut', a jury announced on Monday.

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France's top literary prize, the Prix Goncourt, went to French novelist Pierre Lemaitre for his World War I epic 'Au revoir là-haut' (Goodbye Up There), a jury announced on Monday.

Lemaitre's oeuvre received six votes, handing the novelist a narrow victory over Frederic Verger, who took four votes for his first novel, 'Arden'.

'Au revoir là-haut' tells the sweeping tale of two young veterans, Albert and Edouard, who represent France's lost generation in the years following World War I.

Lemaitre, 62, was one of the favourites to take the prize, which can boost sales by 300,000 to 400,000 copies.

Jury members hailed Lemaitre for capturing the "continuing horror" of post-war life and praised his "cinematic" writing style.

Successful crime writer

It was the first Goncourt win for longtime crime writer Lemaitre and his first non-genre work after a series of successful thrillers.

He is best known among English-language readers for the translation of his thriller "Alex", which took the 2013 CWA International Dagger award.

"I'm the happiest man on earth. This is a unique moment in a writer's career," Lemaitre told AFP after the win.

He said the award was recognition of "the skill that comes from crime writing, from popular fiction".

Lemaitre's Goncourt win comes amid a surge in interest in World War I ahead of next year's 100th anniversary of the start of conflict.

The lesser-known Renaudot literary prize went to Yann Moix for "Naissance" (Birth), a 1,200-page epic on the often-difficult relationship between parents and their children.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

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