First French Novel Prize for Du temps qu’on existait (Grasset)

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Lagardère Publishing

Paris, November 10, 2011

After receiving the Flore Prize, on 15 November Marien Defalvard received the First French Novel Prize for Du temps qu’on existait, published by Grasset. Defalvard is 18 and lives in Orléans.

The tale begins and ends with a funeral; between the two, the man being buried recounts his life. The story commences in the 1970s, when the narrator, who was born into a middle-class family, is still a child. He finds this life dull and uses sarcasm and daydreams to alleviate his boredom.

The years go by. He travels around France (Paris, Lyon, Brest and Tours), his keen intelligence offended by the vulgarity of the times. This is no picaresque tale, but rather a surprising story of sensitivity, from the protagonist’s first loves to the lightness of his last hours of life, when he finally discovers joy.

Life seems to have forgotten him, but he has not forgotten to look for the funny side of things. Between long, melancholic passages in which the very young author exhibits great skill in describing landscapes, train trips and snow falling on Lyon, we encounter moments of satire (targeting family life and mothers, for example) as well as pure humour, such as the delectable description of a Monopoly game. An enchanting novel, from start to finish.

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