The Goncourt 2021 prize awarded to Mohamed Mbougar Sarr, the Renaudot for Amélie Nothomb

And the most prestigious of French literary prizes goes to… Mohamed Mbougar Sarr. The author won the famous award, given this Wednesday noon at the Drouant restaurant in Paris (IIe), for his book “The most secret memory of men” published by Philippe Rey editions. In the aftermath, “First blood” earned Amélie Nothomb, who needs no introduction, the Renaudot prize.

“The most secret memory of men” is therefore “the best work of imagination in prose, published in the year” written by a French-speaking author, according to the honorific terms chosen by the Académie Goncourt. Mohamed Mbougar Sarr succeeds Hervé Le Tellier (L’Anomalie, ed. Gallimard, 2020) and joins the list of illustrious winners, including Proust (“In the shade of young girls in bloom”, 1919), Malraux (“The human condition”, 1933), Modiano (“Rue des boutiques obscures”, 1978) or even Duras (“The Lover”, 1984). For the final Goncourt list, Mohamed Mbougar Sarr was in the running against Christine Angot for “Le Voyage dans l’Est” (ed. Flammarion), Louis-Philippe Dalembert for “Milwaukee blues” (ed. Sabine Wespieser) and Sorj Chalandon for “Child of bastard” (ed. Grasset).

Back to Drouant for this 2021 edition

The Goncourt Prize has existed since 1903, making it the oldest French literary award. It owes its name to the writer Edmond de Goncourt who, in his will drawn up in 1884, instructed the author Alphonse Daudet to “constitute in perpetuity a literary society whose foundation has been throughout our lives as men of letters , the thought of my brother and mine”.

Since 1914, the “Ten” who make up the Académie Goncourt have met at the Drouant restaurant, not far from the Opéra in Paris. On the first Tuesday of each month, except in summer, they have lunch in the Goncourt room on the first floor, from which was announced, as usual with the exception of the 2020 edition disrupted by the Covid-19, the name of Mohamed Mbougar Sarr this Wednesday.

The awarding of the Goncourt prize is preceded by a very specific ritual. The vote is oral: before each ballot, a juror is drawn by lot to express his choice, and so on. During the first ten rounds, the prize can only be awarded by an absolute majority. From the eleventh to the thirteenth round, the relative majority is sufficient. In the event of a tie, the vote of the president, Didier Decoin, decides. Only Michel Tournier in 1970 obtained the Prize unanimously for “Le roi des Aulnes”.

Amélie Nothomb’s 30th novel crowned

The novelist Amélie Nothomb picks up the Renaudot. In her thirtieth novel, “Premier Sang” (ed. Albin Michel), the author offers a captivating and moving story written in the first person, in which she slips into the skin of her father, who died last year.

She recounts his astonishing childhood in a strange bourgeois Belgian family and his extraordinary career as a diplomat where he came close to death during a four-month hostage-taking in the Congo, during which he managed to save his life and that of 1,800 people. Taking us very far, “First Blood” is by far one of the most personal books of the best-selling author, who was elected in the second round, with six votes.

The Renaudot for the essay was awarded to “In my street there were three shops” (Presses de la Cité) by Anthony Palou, said Franz-Olivier Giesbert, one of the Renaudot jurors.

We would love to say thanks to the author of this short article for this incredible web content

The Goncourt 2021 prize awarded to Mohamed Mbougar Sarr, the Renaudot for Amélie Nothomb