Goncourt des lycéens 2021: Clara Dupont-Monod laureate for her novel “To adapt”, on the handicap

With his novel, Adapt (ed. Stock), Clara Dupont-Monod wins the Goncourt des Lycéens, against Lilia Hassaine, (Bitter Sun, ed. Gallimard), Anne Berest (Postcard, ed. Grasset), Patrice Franceschi (If only one remains, ed. Grasset), and Christine Angot (The Journey to the East, ed. Flammarion).

His book is a declaration of love for siblings. Hers welcomed, when she was 10 years old, a child who did not speak, did not see, did not move, only heard.

It is by drawing inspiration from her own story that she tells the shock of a family at the arrival of a disabled child to whom the members of the siblings must adapt. The book focuses on three characters, the child’s brothers and sister, all of whom have different reactions to this “unsuitable” human: protective love, refusal or even the need to repair. “I put a little of myself in each of the characters”, she confided to high school students, during a digital meeting organized a week ago.

The book sets the scene in the Cévennes mountains. There, some walls are made of dry stone. There is no binding, each of the stones rest on the others thus allowing the building not to give way. “That for me is the siblings, it is the place of great support”, comments the author. In the novel, these stones speak and become the narrators, giving the work an air of a fable.

A dimension on which Clara Dupont-Monod insists: “I like to animate the inanimate”, thereby confessing a passion for the Middle Ages, and the habit of naming objects by giving them first names. “At the time, time division did not yet exist, and the only way to calibrate was the sound of the bell. So we named them.”

The novel therefore gives pride of place to an uncompromising nature: “it is a nature which requires humility from man and not the other way around”, declares Clara Dupont-Monod. She also likes to compare the child to the mountain: “These beings do not judge, they are capable of poetry, there is no filter of malice. The child is exactly like the mountain: the mountain is, the child is, a pure existence, and that’s enough.”

We asked Clara Dupond-Monod what might appeal to young people when reading her novel: “It’s a text that talks about adolescence but I think there is a relationship to the difference that obviously the high school students have fully integrated, much more than us adults. They are very open, interested in difference. I saw an approach to their questions that is infinitely more tender, flexible and happy than a lot of adults. ”

The cover of the novel "Adapt", from Clara Dupont-Monod to Stock editions. & nbsp;  ("Adapt", Clara Dupont-Monot, ed.  Stock)

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