Detective writer Pierre Lemaitre wins France's top Goncourt book prize for WW1 novel

Pierre Lemaitre
Pierre Lemaitre © AFP/François Guillot

France’s top literary prize, the Goncourt, has been awarded to Pierre Lemaitre for his eighth novel Au revoir là-haut, a dark and humorous tale about the hardships of the First World War.


"I am the happiest man in the world. It's a unique moment in a writer's career. It's like a birth, a happy marriage," the award-winner said after receiving the news.

In a meandering saga of over 500 pages, Lemaitre tells the story of Europe’s lost generation, who struggled through the horrors of the war only to be met with the chill of the Great Depression.

Known until now for his detective novels, Au revoir là-haut marks a definite change in style. His books have been translated into over twenty languages worldwide.

Lemaitre was chosen with six votes against four for the runner-up Frédéric Verger, a young writer who was nominated for his first novel, Arden.

The name of the winner was announced in a Parisian restaurant, as is the custom since the first Goncourt in 1903.

Though only worth a symbolic 10 euros, the Goncourt guarantees prize-winners a whopping sale of 400,000 copies.

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