Serge Joncour wins the Femina prize with “Human Nature”

Portrait of the writer Serge Joncour, Femina Prize 2020 for “Human Nature”.

(c) Jean-Philippe Baltel / Flammarion editions

Text by: Siegfried Forster Follow

4 min

The Femina Prize was awarded to Serge Joncour, 58, for his great rural novel Human Nature (Flammarion).

Unlike other literary prizes, Femina's all-female jury decided to hand over the prize despite the bookstores being closed due to confinement.


Read more


Human Nature

, Serge Joncour outlines the changes in rural France at the end of the 20th century.

Through the portrait of a family of peasants in the South-West, he depicts the points of rupture between the reason of humans who have become powerless and the increasingly severe environmental catastrophes, between the great heatwave of 1976 and the historic storm of 1999. , including the oil spills and the Chernobyl disaster.

An impossible love story

In Serge Joncour's novel, the Fabrier's little farm then becomes the epicenter both of our contemporary history and of an impossible love story between Alexandre, son of farmers, and Constanze, a young German from the Est, two beings torn between heritage and modernity.  

The story begins in the mid-1970s and tells of the quest for summits and freedom in the countryside, but also the confrontation with determinism and ecological concerns in rural areas.

With his fourteenth work, the romantic art of Serge Joncour charmed the jury of the Prix Femina, it remains to be seen how the public will react to this distinction in the middle of confinement. 

The question of solidarity

Because the most prestigious literary prizes in France, such as the Goncourt prize or the Grand prix du roman de l'Académie française, have decided to postpone their prize sine die "out of 


 " with the booksellers.

In other words, not to award their price during confinement so that independent booksellers do not lose the revenue from these books which are highly acclaimed by the general public. 

Awarding a price in the midst of a period of confinement, is it an act of selfishness or, on the contrary, of resistance to contest the “non-essential businesses” label stuck to bookstores?

For the Femina jury, “ 

the annual literary prize event constitutes a major act of support for all the players in the book chain, publishers, booksellers and authors who, at the moment, are resisting the contrary circumstances by all means.

We are fully in solidarity with the booksellers


How to support bookstores?

The Femina jury chose to trust the concept of " 

click and collect

 ", that is to say a new organization of delivery and order pick-up activities set up by some booksellers already during the first lockdown in March. so as not to leave the book market entirely to the giants of sales platforms.

Le Femina remains convinced that, even at the time of confinement, “ 

literary prices help support cultural life, booksellers, publishers, readers and authors seriously affected by the confinement measures


Deborah Levy wins the Femina Prize for Foreign Novel

The Femina prize for foreign novel went to the Briton of South African origin Deborah Levy, for her autobiographical diptych, 

The Cost of Living


What I don't want to know

 (Editions du Sous-Sol).

Christophe Granger, for 

Joseph Kabris or the possibilities of a life

 (Anamosa), wins the prize for the essay.

Finally, a Special Jury Prize was awarded to the Lebanese Charif Majdalani, for 

Beirut 2020

 (Actes Sud). 


Receive all the international news directly in your mailbox

I subscribe

Follow all the international news by downloading the RFI application


  • Literary awards

  • Literature

  • Culture

  • France

  • our selection

On the same subject

Reconfinement: bookstores are closing, book shelves in supermarkets too

United States: booksellers mobilize against Amazon