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Prix Goncourt gone mad

The bizarre ritual of the Prix Goncourt

By Tim King   September 2003

The year 1903 was a good one for French culture-the upper crust got properly registered in the first Bottin Mondain (see Prospect, April 2003), the working classes got a chance to win 20,000 francs in the first Tour de France and (mostly) middle-class writers were bequeathed a prize worth 5,000 francs by Edmond de Goncourt. In his will, he nominated ten friends to be the Acad?e Goncourt, giving each an annual stipend of 6,000 francs to cover the regular lunches at which they would select the year’s best “work of imagination in prose.”

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