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First World War book wins Goncourt

Moving tale of trench-weary veterans lands French literary prize for Pierre Lemaitre

FRANCE’S top literary prize, the Goncourt, has been won by Pierre Lemaitre for a fast-moving adventure-tragedy about the lost generation after World War I.

"Au revoir la-haut" (Goodbye Up There) tells the story of two trench-weary veterans, Albert and Edouard, who struggle to reintegrate into French society after the horrors of war.

Lemaitre, 62, was one of the favourites to take the prize, which can boost sales by 300,000 to 400,000 copies. Jury members hailed him for capturing the "continuing horror" of post-war life and praised his "cinematic" writing style.

It was the first Goncourt win for long-time crime writer Lemaitre and his first non-genre work after a series of successful thrillers.

He is best known among English-language readers for the translation of his thriller "Alex" (MacLehose), which took the 2013 CWA International Dagger award.

"I'm the happiest man on earth. This is a unique moment in a writer's career," Lemaitre told AFP after the win.

He said the award was recognition of "the skill that comes from crime writing, from popular fiction".

The Goncourt win comes amid a surge in interest in World War I ahead of next year's 100th anniversary of the start of conflict.

The lesser-known Renaudot literary prize went to Yann Moix for "Naissance" (Birth), a 1,200-page epic on the often-difficult relationship between parents and their children.
© AFP/Connexion

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