Strega Prize 2015


One of the first meetings of the Amici della Domenica (image taken from Wikimedia Commons)

In a post last September we gave an overview of the most important literary prizes awarded in Italy, the most prestigious being the Strega prize. Last night the 2015 Premio Strega was awarded to Nicola Lagioia for his novel La ferocia.The Premio Strega was established in 1947 by the journalist Guido Bellonci and his wife, the novelist Maria Villavecchia Bellonci, with the financial support of Guido Alberti, the owner of the firm Strega, which still produces a popular herbal liqueur. In the aftermath of the Second World War and after twenty years of cultural oppression under the fascist regime, their hope was to revitalize a free intellectual debate with the help of their Amici della Domenica or ‘Sunday friends’, a group of artists and intellectuals who formed a literary salon in the Bellonci residence in Rome. This group included, for example, Massimo Bontempelli, Guido Piovene, Carlo Bernari, Paola Masino, Paolo Monelli, Palma Bucarelli and Alberto Savinio.

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French-speaking literature and literary prizes outside of France

When we think of French literature, the first names that spring to mind are those of the great metropolitan writers such as Proust or Balzac. But “la francophonie” is not limited to mainland France ; besides overseas territories and parts of Belgium, Switzerland and Canada, French is widely spoken in North West Africa, where France used to be the colonial power. Morocco, Tunisia, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Mauritania, Togo among others still have French as their official language, and l’Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie comprises 80 member states from all over the world. When speaking of French literature, one should not forget the contribution of writers from overseas, and that many a book written in French may in fact have been penned by an African author.

Examples of Haitian and Congolese prizewinners

Examples of Haitian and Congolese prizewinners

French-speaking countries and overseas territories’ contribution to French literature is not recent: XIXth century writer Alexandre Dumas was the son of a mixed-race former slave from Saint-Domingue ; in 1921 Batouala, written by René Maran, from Martinique, was the first novel penned by a Black person to be awarded the prestigious French literary prize Goncourt ; and the XXth century poet Saint-John Perse was born and spent his childhood in Guadeloupe. One important movement in French-speaking literature is “la Négritude”, founded in the 1930s by Martinican poet Aimé Césaire and Senegalese poet and politician Léopold Sédar Senghor. Contemporary writer and Nobel-prize winner Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio is Franco-Mauritian, and Haitian author Dany Laferrière has recently become a member of the Académie Française. Continue reading

French prizewinners 2014

The Library actively collects major French literary prizewinners. See previous lists of literary prizewinners: 2009-2010, 2011, 2012, 2013. We use them to guide our acquisitions policy for modern literature (we have previously discussed this policy in a historical context).

Here are the titles and the classmarks of a selection of French prizewinners from 2014:

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The construction of authority in early Russian crime fiction

In the fourth and final CamCREES seminar of the Michaelmas term, Professor Claire Whitehead of St Andrews University discussed Russian crime fiction from the 19th and early 20th century.  These bibliographical notes for the talk go on to look at holdings of Russian crime fiction, both early and modern, in the University Library.


Front cover of Zapiski sledovatelia by N.P. Timofeev (S236.c.87.1)

Professor Whitehead gave a fascinating talk on the work she is doing for her current project on the poetics of early Russian crime fiction.  She explored several particularly notable features in the Russian genre.  The mystery, for example, is not necessarily in the identification of the criminal (the standard whodunit) – more often than not, the chase is to establish the reason for the crime.  Similarly, early Russian crime writers showed a preference for writing the narrative from the point of view of the investigator: a device often shunned by writers elsewhere because it can make the maintenance of suspense challenging.  In discussing the issue of authority, Professor Whitehead looked at the narrator-investigators in terms of the authority given to them through their identity in society as representatives of the law and the authority they build through their trustworthiness and effectiveness as narrators. Continue reading

The little-known Nobel laureate

A selection of older Modiano novels in the UL

A selection of Modiano novels in the UL

Since the announcement on October 9th of the 2014 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, much has been written in the media both here and across the Atlantic attempting to answer the question “Who on earth is Patrick Modiano?”. He is a well-known author in his native France, having won both the Grand Prix du roman de l’Académie française in 1972 and the Prix Goncourt in 1978, but is much less renowned in the English-speaking world, perhaps because only a few of his works have been translated into English. Continue reading