Les Prix Littéraires 2021 en France

Each year in France, the authors of the best novels are awarded official literary prizes - including the prestigious Prix Goncourt, Prix Femina, Prix Renaudot, and more - with winners announced right before the holiday season. These literary prizes (les Prix Littéraires) are awarded to works that are recognized by a jury as qualifying for the prize. The prizes not only honor the author, but also the publisher and are largely linked to the annual literary season (la rentrée littéraire), from which they choose the books for their selections. Several selections are made before reaching the final vote. La rentrée littéraire refers to the fall period when many French books are published. This is when heavy-hitting favorite authors and first-time publishers alike tend to release their latest works. This year, over 550 books were published in France in the past 3 months leading up to the race for the 2021 French literary awards.

Moreover, the prizes have a symbolic market value and are capital producers causing sales to significant increase for the winners. There are five major prizes that stake a claim during the literary season. The most prestigious of the prizes, the Goncourt, was originally rewarded with the sum of five thousand francs which, from devaluation to devaluation, ended up being reduced to fifty francs in 1960, then to a handful of euros, but the circulation (which is never below one hundred thousand) largely compensates for this shortfall, generating sales in excess of 600,000 euros. It is primarily the 5 “big” (Goncourt, Femina, Médicis, Renaudot and Interallié prices) that significantly boost sales with a few other prizes adding value as indicated in the chart at left.

This year’s Prix Goncourt went to 31-year-old Mohamed Mbougar Sarr’s novel The Most Secret Memory of Men, praised for its ‘stunning energy’. The Senegalese novelist has become the first writer from sub-Saharan Africa to be awarded France’s oldest and most prestigious literary prize, the Prix Goncourt. The award was announced on Wednesday, November 3rd at the Drouant restaurant near the Opéra Garnier in Paris, as is the tradition. The 2021 Goncourt award was hailed as “symbolic” by the French literary establishment, 100 years after the prize – presented since 1867 – was first won by a Black author. In 1921, René Maran, a Martiniquan writer far from the Parisian literary world, shook up the cultural scene by winning the prestigious Prix Goncourt, for Batouala, (subtitled Authentic Negro Novel) scandalizing the colonial society of the time.

Your AFSF Culturethèque e-library is a great resource for finding new and past winners of these prestigious literary awards offering a host of books to choose from in this prized category.  Visit the AFSF Library page for instructions on how to sign up for the Culturethèque e-library.  

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