adjectif / nom / verbe -> adverbe
When I arrived in Paris several years ago,
I vowed that each year
I would read the winner of the Prix Goncourt,
the most prestigious French literary award,
broadly equivalent to the Booker.
There are good and interesting young writers in France but they never seem to win any prizes (not in France anyway). The Goncourt prize, created 100 years ago specifically to reward new, young writers, has become, notoriously, a case of "le tour de Monsieur ou Madame (usually Monsieur) Buggins". The honours, and the guaranteed extra sales, are passed around between the top three or four publishing houses, according to an - allegedly - pre-cooked decision of a jury made up of 10 literary journalists and literary figures.
The winner was Jacques-Pierre Amette, 60, the literary critic of the weekly news magazine Le Point, for a novel called La Maîtresse de Brecht, a dense, self-consciously literary work about the return of the great German playwright to his native land after the war.
M. Amette is a respected writer and no doubt a worthy winner. But he hardly fits the intentions of the founder of the prize, Edmond de Goncourt, who wanted to reward "youth, originality and robust, new forms of thought and expression ..."
The French do these things differently. On two occasions, I have myself served on (non-literary) prize juries. Although I am sworn to secrecy, I can say that on each occasion, an obvious winning candidate emerged, only to be shoved back into the pile. For one reason or another, that candidate's victory was declared to be "undesirable".
And yet the Goncourt continues to be regarded as France's premier literary prize and continues to guarantee a boom in sales for its winner. As an American expert on French literature, Bill Cloonan, said last week: "What astonishes foreigners is that everyone involved in the Goncourt - writers, editors, journalists - takes it very seriously while knowing that it is, in many ways, a joke." This was, he suggested, "superbly French".
The French first couple have already hugely increased the budget of the Elysée Palace during their eight years of residence. Last weekend, the President's wife and the Prime Minster, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, set off to Rome to attend the ceremony of beatification for Mother Teresa. No such ceremony, without a direct French connection, had ever been attended by high-level French delegations in the past.
Paris Stories: Dodgy book prizes and
costly junkets. Superbly French,