Fred Vargas (pseudonym of Frédérique Audoin-Rouzeau) has recently been awarded the Princess of Asturias award in its literary category. Cambridge Professor of Classics, Mary Beard, received the corresponding award for Social sciences in 2016.
Although Fred Vargas is a historian and archaeologist, she is also known for being a successful crime novel writer. In fact, she started writing thrillers for fun, as an escape from her academic occupation. Her novelist career began with the publication of Les jeux de l’amour et de la mort (C205.d.7969) which won the Festival de Cognac novel prize.
Her two series of detective stories (policiers) are very popular. One, the trilogy Les Évangélistes, started in 1995 with Debout des morts (C205.d.6339). For this book she was awarded two prizes: Mystère de la critique and the International Dagger (the latter from the Crime Writers’ Association) for the English translation. It was followed by Un peu plus loin sur la droite (1996, C205.d.6340) and Sans feu ni lieu (1997, C201.d.6341). The other series features the character Commissaire Adamsberg.
Vargas is the only writer holding four CWA International Dagger prizes, the last one awarded jointly with Pierre Lemaitre, who himself holds three and who has also won the Prix Goncourt (see here for works by him in French and English in the UL). Vargas’ last three prizes were awarded for the English translations of the following Commissaire Adamsberg’s novels:
- Sous les vents de Neptune (2004, C205.d.6356)
- L’homme aux cercles bleus (1991, C205.d.6338)
- L’armée furieuse (2011, C205.d.6355)
Apart from the series mentioned above Fred Vargas has also written other novels such as: Ceux qui vont mourir te saluent (1994, C205.d.6353). In addition, she has published several essays: Petit Petit Traité de toutes vérités sur l’existence (2001, 2006.8.5487), Critique de l’anxiété pure (2003. C205.d.6745) and the more controversial La vérité sur Cesare Battisti (2004. C205.d.6352).
The jury of the Princess of Asturias award declared: “Fred Vargas embodies the renewal of a genre, the thriller, to which she has brilliantly contributed original pieces, atmospheres and settings that make up an oeuvre of universal scope.”
The Princess of Asturias awards ceremony takes place every October in Oviedo (Spain). With this award, Vargas is the latest addition to the list of prestigious international literary figures who preceded her, such as the French-Lebanese writer Amin Maalouf who won in 2010. We are currently completing our holdings of Fred Vargas and Pierre Lemaitre. The awarding of this prize to a crime novelist demonstrates significant recognition of the genre. Crime novels have become a subject of academic interest and an area that we will continue to collect.
Manuel del Campo