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Literature France Prix Goncourt

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Novel of youth and disillusion wins France's Goncourt prize

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Nicolas Mathieu at the Drouant restaurant after receiving the Prix Goncourt REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

A book described by its author as an “educational novel about disillusionment” set in a drab industrial town has won France’s prestigious Goncourt book prize this year.


Nicolas Mathieu has won for only his second novel, Leurs enfants après eux (Their Children after Them).

Mathieu, a former journalist, said on Tuesday he was “thrilled” to have won the award.

The 40-year-old author said he spent "18 months locked in a room" to write the book, described as an “educational novel about disillusionment”.

It is a coming-of-age story that focuses on a group of adolescents in a fictional town in eastern France in the early 1990s.

Set over four summers, the novel follows the friends as they dream of escaping a dreary industrial town where the blast furnaces have fallen silent.

Their parents fare no better - one of their fathers ihas been laid off from his idustrial job and scrapes by on work as a gardener while bitterly drinking his sorrows away.

"I wanted to tell the story of the world I come from," Mathieu explained.

His first novel Aux animaux la guerre (Animals at War) also deals with the impact of globalisation in a declining French town,

The Prix Goncourt is worth only a symbolic 10 euros but it guarantees huge sales and unbeatable publicity for the winning author.

Theb40,000-run of Mathieu's novel has sold out but the publisher says 50,000 more will now be printed.