Julian Barnes wins France’s first romance novel award
British writer Julian Barnes received the Jean d’Ormesson Prize on Wednesday for his novel, The only story, a powerful meditation on the wounds that a first love can leave.
“First love fixes a life forever: this is what I have discovered over the years,” Barnes, the most Francophile of English novelists, wrote in the book.
“It can eclipse later loves; on the other hand, it can make them easier, better. Although sometimes first love cauterizes the heart, and all that any seeker will find afterwards is scar tissue,” added Barnes, who lost his literary wife. agent Pat Kavanagh in 2008.
The only story returns to the theme of Barnes’ first novel, Metroland, recounting the passion of a 19-year-old living in the suburbs of London for an older, married tennis partner, Susan.
The novel was praised by Héloïse d’Ormesson, the daughter of the late French writer whose name bears the prize, for having shown that “it is better to suffer for love than not to have loved at all”.
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“My father loved the spirit of Julian Barnes,” she told AFP, and the two men shared a passion for the novelist Gustave Flaubert.
Indeed, Barnes’ novel Flaubert’s parrot was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, an award he ultimately won on the fourth attempt in 2011 with The meaning of an end.
Barnes, 73, the son of two French teachers, is only the second winner of the award launched in 2018.
It is awarded annually to books that ‘Ormesson, who died in 2017 at the age of 92, would have loved.
The first was Haitian novelist Jacques Stephen Alexis, a communist who was almost certainly assassinated by members of the Tonton Macoute militia loyal to the island’s dictator, François “Papa Doc” Duvalier, in 1961.