Jean-Baptiste Andrea joins an illustrious list of Goncourt Prize winners including Michel Houellebecq, Marcel Proust, and Simone de Beauvoir
Film director Jean-Baptiste Andrea has won France’s most prestigious literary award, the Goncourt Prize.
Andrea won the prize for his 2023 novel ‘Veiller sur elle’ (Watch Over Her), a 500+ page epic depicting 20th century Italian history through the lens of a poor sculptor’s love affair with an aristocrat as the country falls into fascism.
“I think of all the kids who dream of it, and who say to themselves: I won’t make it. I want to tell them: be unreasonable,” Andrea told AFP.
“Art is freedom. I have always believed in romance, romance has never died,” he added, before paying tribute to his publisher Sophie de Sivry, who died in May
‘Veiller sur elle’ is Andrea’s fourth novel after the internationally popular ‘A Hundred Million Years and a Day’ and ‘Devils and Saints’. But it’s films that initially brought recognition to the 52-year-old writer.
As a screenwriter and director, Andrea’s filmography includes 2006 comedy Big Nothing, starring David Schwimmer and Simon Pegg.
The Goncourt Prize is arguably France’s most prestigious award in the field of literature. Alongside the honour, it generally will generate book sales upwards of 400,000 copies in the final two months of the year. Established in 1903, previous winners include Michel Houellebecq, Marcel Proust, and Simone de Beauvoir.
Andrea was chosen in the 14th round of votes by judges, chaired by Didier Decoin. The Goncourt Prize has four total finalists. This year’s other finalists were Gaspard Koenig, Neige Sinno and Eric Reinhardt.
While all four were in the running up until this week, Sinno was effectively discounted after the announcement that she won the Prix Femina on Monday for her novel ‘Triste tigre’ (Sad Tiger). The Prix Femina was created the year after the Goncourt as a challenge to founders Jules and Edmond de Goncourt’s sexism. Ever since, the two prizes have been open rivals.