Moroccan-French writer Leïla Slimani wins Goncourt, France’s top literary prize

leila-slimaniMoroccan-born Leila Slimani won France’s top literary prize, the Goncourt, on Thursday with a novel guaranteed to “scare the wits out of parents”.

The chilling tale of a “perfect” nanny who murders the two children she is looking after, “Chanson douce” (roughly translated as “Sweet Song”) is based on the real-life story of a Dominican child-minder shortly to stand trial for the double murder of her charges in New York in 2012.

The book – which begins with the words “the baby is dead” – is already a bestseller in France.

A mother herself, 35-year-old Slimani who caused a stir with her first book about a female nymphomaniac, said “the idea of paying someone to love your children for you” fascinated her.

“It leads to a very ambiguous relationship… We are always afraid they will steal our place in our children’s hearts,” she added.

The former journalist is only the seventh woman to have won the Goncourt in its 112-year history.

Mobbed by reporters outside the Paris restaurant where the prize was announced, she said: “It is hard to talk about literature in this craziness.”

Later, she told AFP that “I slept well last night”, despite being favourite, and dedicated the prize to her “parents, and in particular to my father who died 10 years ago”.

Although Slimani gets only 10 euros ($11) in prize money, the Goncourt almost guarantees a boost in sales of 450,000 copies or more, placing it instantly among the year’s top bestsellers.

Leïla Slimani, a Moroccan -French  novelist, interviewed in Paris on Thursday after she won France’s top literary award, the Prix Goncourt. Credit Jacky Naegelen/Reuters
Leïla Slimani, a Moroccan -French novelist, interviewed in Paris on Thursday after she won France’s top literary award, the Prix Goncourt. Credit Jacky Naegelen/Reuters

The separate Renaudot prize, often seen as something of a consolation prize, went to “Babylone” by Yasmina Reza, best known for her hit play “Art”.

It too is a kind of crime novel in which a dinner party dispute over free-range chicken has fatal consequences.

FRANCE24/ (AFP)

  • 5thDrawer

    GOOD to have a story on occasion about real recognition of literary genius, in Art.

  • 5thDrawer

    Leonard Cohen passed away. Age 82. Great Canadian.

  • Hind Abyad

    I find it funny, “a chilling tale”? Who care to read this, now just because she won the Goncourt..her first book was about a female nymphomaniac..things have changed,
    it had to be a masterpeace no more.

    • 5thDrawer

      “Truth is stranger than fiction.”

      • Hind Abyad

        Truth comes from Art..
        “In early 20th century, under pressure from other, juvenescent, narrative forms, the novel began to founder. The polymorphous multilingual perversities of the later Joyce, and the extreme existential asperities of his fellow exile, Beckett, are both registered as authentic responses to the taedium vitae of the form, and so accorded tremendous, guarded respect – if not affection”.

        Flaubert book Madame Bovary ‘the taedium vitae of the form’ was a fiction so realistic, he was arrested the Court asked Flaubert to give Mme Bovary’s real identity.. “he said Bovary c’est moi”
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madame_Bovary

        • 5thDrawer

          I’m sure that frustrated the court … admitting some of our individual ‘kinks’ has always been frowned upon in the echelons of the ‘religious high&mighty’ halls.
          It’s why we wanted the church out of our bedrooms, after all … even if they didn’t enjoy when we found out what went on in theirs … and in their dungeons. :-))