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Top literary prizes awarded in France

Renaudot prize awarded to Jewish writer who died in Nazi death camp
/ Source: The Associated Press

France’s second-most prestigious literary award, the Renaudot prize, has been awarded to a Jewish writer who died at a Nazi death camp — the first time the prize honored a writer for posthumous work.

Irene Nemirovsky was named winner of the Renaudot Monday for “Suite Francaise” (“French Suite”), a manuscript turned over to a publisher just months ago by the author’s daughter.

The most prestigious literary award, the Goncourt Prize, also awarded Monday, went to Laurent Gaude for his novel “Le Soleil des Scorta” (“The Sun of the Scortas”). Gaude’s novel tells the story of the Scorta family from 1870 to the present, their struggle against poverty and the family vow to pass on to each generation an inheritance — be it a souvenir or a secret.

The Goncourt and Renaudot prizes, awarded annually, all but guarantee successful sales for the winning books.

Despite the higher prestige of the Goncourt, the dramatic story behind the Renaudot winner captured attention.

Nemirovsky, a Ukrainian Jew who went into exile in France, was a noted novelist between the two world wars. She was arrested in Paris in 1942 by the Nazis, deported and killed in Auschwitz without having finished her novel, which described cowardice and small gestures of solidarity by the French at the start of the occupation.

Nemirovsky’s daughter, Denise Epstein, had kept the manuscript and just months ago sent it to the Denoel publishing house.