“He will have the Goncourt.” It is rare that a book creates the following sentence in the mind of its reader. And yet, this is what Veiller sur elle (The Iconoclast) provokes. So what joy after Camille Laurens’ announcement! Tuesday, at the Drouant restaurant, the announcement of the Renaudot prize was made straight away: it was Ann Scott who won with Les Insolents (Calmann-Lévy).
Nothing was decided yet. Just last week, the predictions were going well all over Paris. We assumed a duel between Neige Sinno and Jean-Baptiste Andrea, between two critical and public successes (the first sold more than 45,000 copies and the second, 56,000). Humus by Koenig has been brandished as the eco-book of our time. We also bet on the great chances of Éric Reinhardt, due to the influence of his house Gallimard, and in particular of the Madrigall group (P.O.L., Mercure, Flammarion...), which has already won the Grand Prix with Dominique Barbéris from the novel of the French Academy.
And then, Monday November 6, the Femina jurors awarded their prize to Neige Sinno for her book Triste Tigre, (P.O.L.), shuffling the cards again. Because, we remind you, since 2021, the Goncourts have had the principle of not awarding their prize to a book that has already won an autumn grand prize. This morning, AFP announced favorite and winner Reinhardt when Bernard Lehut, on RTL, chose Jean-Baptiste Andrea. So this is it for the author, screenwriter and director! Already rewarded with the Fnac novel prize, this Goncourt prize is a consecration for the man who switched to writing just six years ago, at the age of 46.
Since 2017, every two years, Jean-Baptiste Andrea has published a novel. After My Queen, One Hundred Million Years and One Day, Of Devils and Saints, his fourth Watch Over Her aroused the enthusiasm of the jurors. It is a love novel, a picaresque novel, a revenge novel like nothing else since Dumas. His story: Mimo, the nickname of the main character, is a genius sculptor but the man is poor, tossed around by the waves of an intractable destiny. Viola is the heiress of a wealthy family condemned to marriage. Can they escape their condition? Dupe games, betrayals, revenge, manipulations... Here unfolds in six hundred pages the lives of these two indomitable beings, caught in the throes of History while fascism swells in this Italy of the beginning of the 20th century.
Coming from a family of pied-noirs in Cannes, Jean-Baptiste Andrea first took “a long detour of twenty years” through cinema, before daring to write his first novel My Queen… Refused fourteen times, the book published by Editions de L'Iconoclaste was a great success and won numerous prizes: Femina des lycéens, first novel prize, prize sent by post, etc.
More recently, when we asked him how he felt at the Fnac novel prize ceremony for Veiller sur elle, he replied: “I've been jumping since I was published. I have been a writing professional since 1996. When I met Sophie de Sivry (founder of Éditions de L'Iconoclaste, who recently died, editor's note), it was a revolution in my life. She saw me, she understood me. I have lived in wonder ever since that day and on top of that, I was given an award for what I wrote! I'm so happy." There is no doubt that the author will remain on cloud nine for a good while longer.