Brigitte Giraud, from the intimate of mourning to the universal

This writer little known to the general public was a discreet finalist, and her novel the one on which bettors probably bet the least. Brigitte Giraud and her beautiful book live fast (published in August by Éditions Flammarion) were crowned with the Goncourt 2022 prize, awarded on the 14th ballot, a sign that the debates within the jury were very lively and difficult to decide, as rarely before. It took the voice of President Didier Decoin, who counts double, to decide between Brigitte Giraud and the Italian-Swiss writer Giuliano da Empoli and his novel The Mage of the Kremlin.

Lyonnaise, native of Algeria, Brigitte Giraud, author of about fifteen books (novels, essays, short stories), had obtained in 2007 the Goncourt of the news for her collection Love is very overrated. Her new novel is a literary exploration of the drama she experienced in 1999, the motorcycle accident that cost the life of her husband Claude, at 41 years old. The couple had just bought a house. “I moved in alone with our son, at the heart of a rather brutal chronological sequence. Signature of the deed of sale. Accident. Move. Funeral »she summarizes today.

“Words help to ward off fate”

It was when leaving this house, twenty years later, that the writing began, punctuated by haunting questions that the author transcribed throughout her story, she who nevertheless recognizes: “There are only bad questions. »“This drilling, methodical reconstitution and autopsy of the past, rewinds the story of a couple in their mutual impulses, their love dilections, attached to building themselves, step by step, in the luminous evidence of being together”, analyzed Jean-Claude Raspiengeas in The cross September 15. “In 2001, Brigitte Giraud wrote Nowto reveal this brutal cut (of mourning). With restrained emotion, she readjusts each piece of this puzzle, a castle of bevelled cards which was about to collapse on Tuesday, June 22, 1999, at 4.25 p.m., on the rainy pavement of a boulevard in Lyon. »

When the prize was announced, the president of the Goncourt academy, Didier Decoin, expressed his joy at seeing this book, which “poses with great simplicity and authenticity the question of destiny”. Arrived at the Drouant restaurant, in the 2nd arrondissement of Paris, to receive her prize, Brigitte Giraud testified: “Words help to ward off fate. The intimate only has meaning if it resonates with the collective. I want to think that the jurors saw this dimension much broader than a simple intimate life, than a simple destiny. »

A slim majority

It is these intimate springs revealed by literature that the most prestigious of the autumn literary prizes is highlighting this year. Brigitte Giraud’s book was preferred by a small majority to that of Giuliano da Empoli which, strikingly topical, seemed to be the favourite. Published in the spring by Gallimard, this fiction analyzes how Vladimir Putin imposed his power in Russia, making a main character the real figure of a former adviser to the Russian president. A great connoisseur of the mysteries of power (he has advised Italian politicians, including Matteo Renzi), Giuliano da Empoli received last week the grand prize for the novel from the French Academy.

In the last selection of this Goncourt also appeared two other novels. That of the Haitian writer Makenzy Orcel, with incandescent language: A human sum (Rivages), which through the powerful voice of a deceased woman retraces the difficult journey of a young French woman from the provinces. And that of Cloé Korman, Almost Sisters (Seuil), who romanticized her investigation into the death in deportation of three little girls from her family, cousins ​​of her father interned in Beaune-la-Rolande with three other little girls who survived and whom the author met before imagining this dark history of Vichy France. This book had sparked a controversy in recent days after the three survivors protested the recovery of their story.


The Renaudot from Simon Liberati

The 2022 Renaudot Prize was awarded to Simon Liberati for Performance (Grasset). The author of The demons, Eva and The Hyper Justine is rewarded for his thirteenth book, the story of a septuagenarian writer in search of inspiration who is commissioned to write a screenplay on the Rolling Stones, and who begins a relationship with his 23-year-old daughter-in-law. The “essay” mention of the Renaudot prize went to Guillaume Durand for his book devoted to the painter Edouard Manet, Let’s have lunch on the grass (Editions Books). And it’s up to Delphine Horvilleur and her story Living with our dead (published in 2021 by Éditions Grasset then in the Livre de Poche last September) that went to the mention “pocket”.


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