Donna Tartt, Pulitzer Prize for The Goldfinch

With The goldfinchPulitzer Prize 2014, Donna Tartt signs a literary thriller of great efficiency, a story that bewitches and seizes the reader with an irresistible force. FRED R. CONRAD/The New York Times-REDUX-REA/FRED R. CONRAD/NYT-REDUX-REA

The prestigious literary prize in the “fiction” category has just been awarded to the great American novelist for her third novel, a highly effective literary thriller.

The prestigious award Pulitzer has missed few good novels in twenty years. As a reminder, let us mention, among others, The road of Cormac McCarthy in 2007, middlesex by Jeffrey Eugneides in 2003, The Extraordinary Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon in 2001, Hours by Michael Cunningham in 1999 or even American Pastoral of Phillip Roth in 1996. The jurors have just added to their brilliant track record The goldfinch of Donna Tartt.

At 50, the American born in Greewood, Mississippi, a student at Bennington College with a certain Bret Easton Ellisentered literature in 1992 with The Master of Illusionsfirst novel and international success followed, ten years later, by The boyfriend. It will be another ten years before this secret young woman publishes The goldfinch. This impressive novel of more than 800 pages met with colossal success all over the world last year.

Passing through Paris, on the occasion of the promotion of her novel, the very young fifty-year-old with a slender, androgynous figure, always dressed in black, her face pale as a moon, her mischievous green eyes, confirmed to us that she always worked artisanal way. “I write by hand, with different colors of ink and paper to find my way over several years.” For this book, the novelist has however modified two important parameters of her fiction. The duration, since the action of his previous novels was spread over a few weeks. This time, it’s over nearly fifteen years. And geography. Whereas The Master of Illusions took place in Vermont and The boyfriend in Mississippi, The goldfinch revolves around three axes: New York, Las Vegas and Amsterdam. Ambition is therefore the key word of this third opus which invites us to follow a certain Theo Decker, from his thirteenth to his twenty-seventh birthday.

A novel of loneliness and friendship

When Donna Tartt was asked about the choice of Goldfinchthis painting from 1654 representing a bird painted by the Dutchman Fabritius, a pupil of Rembrandts and master of Vermeer, as the red thread of the novel, she answered: “Since the day I discovered it, I thought about this painting every day for years. He obsessed me. It confirmed me in the idea that the world comes to me by the look more than by the ear. This brilliant trompe-l’oeil by a famous painter of his time presents two essential details in the eyes of the writer: the bird on its perch is hampered by a thin chain. And the painting survived the gigantic fire in Delft in which its creator perished.

Three centuries later, Donna Tartt imagined that The goldfinch falls into the hands of young Theo the day an attack blasts several rooms of a New York museum and kills several people including his mother. From there, the reader will follow Theo’s tribulations, first in a wealthy foster home on 5th Avenue. Then to Las Vegas where his alcoholic father, who had abandoned him and his mother, takes him to live in a residence on the edge of the desert. There, he will meet Boris, also on his own, loudmouth, consumer of alcohol and drugs. These two will forge an intense friendship, at times amorous, put on hold by a new drama which will push Theo to leave Vegas and return to New York where he will make his mark in the world of antique dealers, transporting with him his precious painting. At the same time a witness to his past, a tightrope that protects him while exposing him to danger, a mysterious image that obsesses and frightens him.

Novel of loneliness and friendship, of metamorphoses and pretense, homage to the novel of apprenticeship à la Dickens but also to Dostoyevskian darkness, literary thriller of great efficiency, The goldfinch is a story that captivates and seizes the reader with an irresistible force. A success that is very much due to the writing, varied, changing, surprising and to the characters, robust, consistent, believable. Upon its release in the United States, the book was notably supported by Stephen King, who hailed in the New York Times the impressive talent of its author, which he summed up in two words: “A triumph”.

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Donna Tartt, Pulitzer Prize for The Goldfinch