The Prix du livre Inter or Inter Book Prize is the last of the season’s leading literary prizes in France. In 1975, the radio journalist Paul-Louis Mignon was the initiator of the prize which is now one of the leading audience awards. A jury of 24 members comprising amateur readers and radio enthusiasts work together with a renowned writer to make the decision about the prizewinner. Every year a totally new team is involved. For many people this makes the prize awarded by the French radio channel France Inter a credible award, and the chosen novel becomes an instant bestseller.
The prize is presented in summer on purpose, to give the French public reading tips for the summer vacation. In September, everyone returns to work and there is the rentrée littéraire – the frenetically paced literary autumn season when almost all other leading literature prizes are awarded.
This year, the 35-year-old writer and philosopher Tristan Garcia was honoured for his novel 7. This was a slight surprise because 7 is not a classic novel. Rather, it comprises seven “mini-novels”, according to his publisher Gallimard, to avoid using the term ‘novella’ – this is a poor selling genre in France that persuades only a few publishers to take the risk.
So, it’s about seven mini-novels, which focus on the world’s best face, the extra-terrestrial, religion, rock music, drugs, left-wing extremism and immortality. A novel like a mobile, whose parts function independently, yet are connected with a sophisticated literary golden thread, until in the end a kind of psychic profile emerges of the modern individual. “The writer, born in 1981, maliciously exploits all literary genres: part thriller, part fantasy, part irrational, to surprise the reader, and part rational, to reflect on human existence that – so it seems – is the focus of several deep concerns”, was the verdict of Télérama after the novel’s publication in December 2015.
For Garcia himself this is a “melancholy book”, since his generation has to concede that modern promises of happiness, such as emancipation or counter-culture, have all failed. However, personally, he has found his way. 7 is already Tristan Garcia’s tenth book. He spent his formative years in Algeria. After studying philosophy at the elite university Ecole Normale Supérieure (ENS) he planned to attend film school, yet after twice failing the entrance examination he dedicated himself to literature. And he enjoyed success. His first novel Hate: A Romance (first published in France in 2008, as La meilleure part des hommes) was awarded the Prix de Flore and has been translated into several languages.
By Katja Petrovic