Published online by Cambridge University Press: 04 February 2021
Modern literary prizes date from the Nobel Prize in Literature, first awarded in 1901. In France, the Prix Goncourt followed in 1903 and by mid-century numerous others had been established, many of which garner significant public interest to this day. This chapter considers French book prizes, their progressive commercialization heralded by the development of new media in the early twentieth century, and the question of their reliability as indicators of literary quality and durability. It examines the development of the practice as well as the politics of awarding prizes, the relative success of individual publishers, authors and works, and how this feeds into the wider concerns of literary history. The award of prizes is considered against the shifting political currents of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. This historical examination evokes well-known names as well as many now largely forgotten.
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