Book fair – Zemmour, Goncourt, foie gras and baguette: we talked about France with a Pulitzer Prize in Brive (Corrèze)

At the Brive Book Fair this year, we talked a lot about the Goncourt, Femina, Renaudot prizes … But a little less about the presence among the 350 guest authors of Viet Thanh Nguyen, winner of the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for the fiction in 2016 with The Sympathizer. A distinction that the American writer, of Vietnamese origin, shares with great names in literature such as Steinbeck, Faulkner or Hemingway.

All our articles on the Brive Book Fair 2021

What the Pulitzer Prize changed for him

“This award simply changed my life,” says Viet Thanh Nguyen. “After that, people started to read me a lot more, not only in the United States, but all over the world. It gave me the opportunity. to talk about my work, to write articles in major newspapers like the New-York Times, the Guardian… My parents also finally understood what I was doing, which is perhaps the most important thing for me. This award is undoubtedly the highlight of my life. Now, this is how I am presented: Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prize. “

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His perception of French literary prizes

Viet Thanh Nguyen is passionate about literature. He knows the Goncourt Prize, the Renaudot or the Medici Prize “which also rewards foreign authors. I understand and understand the importance of these prizes in France”, he says, while a few meters away from there, Mohamed Mbougar Sarr, winner of Goncourt 2021, connects the dedications.

“In the United States too, we have salons such as the one in Brive. The difference is that there we don’t have foie gras or champagne! And I really like foie gras.”

At the Brive Book Fair, the authors explain how they try to hook their young readers

The choice of France in the 1980s

The action of Devoted, the continuation of Sympathizer, takes place in France in the 1980s. Fresh from a communist re-education camp, Vo Danh, arrives in Paris where he makes his hole in a milieu of leftist intellectuals, thanks to which he sets up a lucrative traffic in cannabis.

To write this new novel, the American author explains that he has researched a lot. “I quickly understood that this period was important for France, with the arrival of Mitterrand in power and the emergence of Jean-Marie Le Pen. I found that it was a good period to address the themes of racism, colonialism, refugees … “

The parallel with the United States

Viet Thanh Nguyen, who speaks regularly in the American media as a spokesperson for refugees around the world (his family fled South Vietnam by cargo), closely follows political news and in particular Eric Zemmour’s career. .

Paper is scarce, the concern of publishing professionals gathered at the Brive Book Fair (Corrèze)

According to him, it is possible to draw a parallel between France in 2021 and the United States which brought Donald Trump to power in 2016. “This rejection of differences, of those who have a different first name, for example, are things America has lived and is also living. These two countries have a colonial heritage in common and Zemmour like Trump plays on people’s fear of losing what they have known, of losing their identity. the slogan “Make America great again”. All of this is also obviously very much linked to the economic context, to social inequalities. “

Its relationship to France

The Pulitzer 2016 stayed for five days in France (it leaves this Monday, November 8 at home, in Los Angeles), in Brive and Paris.

He notably spent time in the 13th arrondissement of the capital, where there is a strong Asian community. “I was very surprised by the very positive reactions of the readers of my book. In the end, I am not gentle with France, just as I was not kind with the United States in The Sympathizer. This does not detract from the affection I have for France, but I wanted to go beyond the clichés that many Americans are satisfied with: the Eiffel Tower, the baguette, the beret … I was interested in talking about working class, of the social reality of the country. “

Tanguy Ollivier

The Devoted, by Viet Thanh Nguyen. Editions Belfond, 412 pages. 23 euros.

We want to say thanks to the writer of this short article for this remarkable material

Book fair – Zemmour, Goncourt, foie gras and baguette: we talked about France with a Pulitzer Prize in Brive (Corrèze)

Hank Gilbert