by Adrian Tahourdin
This year’s Prix Goncourt has gone to Le Sermon sur la chute de Rome by Jérôme Ferrari. The book is published by Actes Sud.
The prize is worth 10 euros, but Ferrari can be guaranteed a huge increase in sales.
This is the second time the Arles-based publishing house has delivered a Goncourt winner: in 2004 Laurent Gaudé’s thoroughly mediocre Le Soleil des Scorta was crowned, but it seemed more like a gesture of encouragement to an admirable non-Paris-based publisher than a true reflection of the book’s merits. The big three Parisian publishers Gallimard, Grasset and Seuil have long been known as Galligrasseuil by those who have suspected that they wield undue influence in the awarding of literary prizes.
In a spirit of increased transparency one of the Goncourt judges, Pierre Assouline, has revealed that the vote went 5-4 in favour of Ferrari – Patrick Deville being the runner-up for Peste & choléra (Seuil).
The forty-four-year-old Ferrari, who teaches philosophy at the French School of Abu Dhabi ("I try to persuade people to study philosophy in French for $15,000 a year"), has also taught at lycées in Algiers and Ajaccio in Corsica – where his new novel is set.
Ferrari didn’t have to endure the near-asphyxiating media crush Michel Houellebecq suffered when he won the Goncourt in 2010. Just as well, as he had just flown in from Abu Dhabi.
Le Sermon sur la chute de Rome will be reviewed in a forthcoming issue of the TLS.