First novel is shock winner of France's top literary prize

The Prix Goncourt, France's most prestigious literary prize, was awarded yesterday to Pascale Roze for her first novel, Chasseur Zero (Zero Hunter). As only the eighth woman to win the award since it was instituted in 1903, Ms Roze joins a rarefied band that includes such intellectual luminaries as Simone de Beauvoir and Marguerite Duras, writes Mary Dejevsky.

Her winning novel relates the long search of a daughter to find out about the death of her father, killed by a Japanese kamikaze pilot during the Second World War.

The award of the prize for a first novel raised eyebrows when it was announced on yesterday's lunchtime television news. Aficianados of the Goncourt also expressed astonishment that the award had gone for the second time in three years to the publishing house Albin Michel.

Three of France's biggest publishers - Gallimard, Le Seuil and Grasset - act as trustees for all five of France's top literary awards, and the back-stabbing politics of French publishing are traditionally regarded as no less important in deciding the awards than literary merit.

The tally of Goncourts since the beginning stands at 82 for Gallimard, 59 for Grasset and 29 for Le Seuil, with Albin the next best placed with 14 awards.

Some believe that the appointment last year of two new judges to the 10-member Goncourt committee injected a degree of surprise and openness into an increasingly stuffy and incestuous process.

The award of last year's prize to Andrei Makine, a Russian who has since been granted French citizenship, was particularly controversial. Not only was he a Russian writing in French, but he had already been named winner of the Medici prize for the same novel, The French Testament, and the Goncourt had always stood out against sharing prize-winning novels.

If the attitude of the committee has started the change, the value of the prize has not. It remains at a paltry 50 francs, far outweighed by the prestige to the writer of winning and the certainty that sales of the winning novel will soar. A Prix Goncourt can still make or break a publishing house.

The process of selection, a series of ballots which take place over a gourmet lunch at the Drouant restaurant in central Paris, has not changed either. Ms Roze's novel won on the third ballot, after the chairman - whose vote counts for double - opted against one of this year's favourites, Rhapsodie Cubaine, by Eduardo Manet, a French-naturalised Cuban writer.

Another favourite, Instruments des Teneres, by Nancy Huston, a Canadian writer who lives in Paris, appeared not to be in the running. One explanation was that the jury wanted a born and bred French winner this year to end a run of foreign and colonial writers.

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
i100

Other places that have held independence referendums
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
news

Arts and Entertainment
Blossoming love: Colin Firth as Stanley and Emma Stone as Sophie, in 'Magic in the Moonlight'
film

Actors star in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur
film

It scooped up an unprecedented 11 Academy Awards when it was first remade in 1959

News
news

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Arts and Entertainment
Maxine Peake plays Hamlet at Manchester's Royal Exchange
theatreReview: Maxine Peake brings emotional ferocity to Shakespeare's starring part
Extras
10 best table lamps
indybest
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager (technical, applications, infrastructure)

£55000 - £60000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: IT Proj...

English Teacher (Bristol and South Gloucestershire)

Negotiable: Randstad Education Bristol: English teachers for day to day cover,...

Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Year 6 Teacher RequiredThis teaching...

SharePoint Administrator - Bishop's Stortford / Stansted

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: SharePoint Administrator - Bishop's ...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week