The veteran Franco-Tunisian author Hedi Kaddour is the favourite to win France’s top literary award, the Goncourt, when it is announced on Tuesday, but the gong often throws up a surprise.
The novel by 70-year-old Kaddour, “Les preponderants” (which roughly translates as “The principals”), about colonial society deeply rooted in its ways in 1920s north Africa, figures on a host of award lists and has already been the co-winner of the prestigious Academie francaise prize this year.
But Mathias Enard, with “Boussole” (“Compass”) and Tobie Nathan’s “Ce pays qui te ressemble” (which translates as “This country that resembles you”), about the Jewish community in Cairo where the author spent his childhood, are also strongly in contention.
The only woman on the shortlist, Nathalie Azoulai, with “Titus n’aimait pas Berenice” (“Titus does not love Berenice”), is also considered to have an outside chance.
“It’s very open. We choose with our heart and our choice is not necessarily everyone’s choice,” said writer Philippe Claudel, one of the 10-strong Goncourt jury.
Last year’s winner, “Pas pleurer” (“Don’t cry”) by Lydie Salvayre was only the sixth time a woman has won the Goncourt since its inception in 1975.