Tuesday, November 07, 2006
This year's Goncourt
The Goncourt, France's biggest literary prize, has just been attributed to Jonathan Littell's Les Bienveillantes. I've only reached page 250 (out of 900) so will refrain from commenting for now, but a small detail buried at the end of a Libération article about Littell struck me: Apparently, the American-born author, who's lived in France and wrote his novel directly in French, was turned down for French nationality twice. That decision strikes me as ill-considered and embarrassing (I'd be curious to know on what grounds Littell's request was turned down), especially since I myself got dual French-American citizenship a few weeks ago. But of course it's only part of France's generally awkward, to put it politely, attitude toward immigration. If the Yale-educated son of a best-selling writer (Robert Littell) gets turned down for French citizenship, just imagine the obstacles put up in front of immigrants from Mali or Afghanistan. What most impressed me when I took the oath at a Brooklyn courthouse was the sheer diversity of the 400 or so people in the room with me. Of course this doesn't mean American immigration policy is so hot right now—the country is building a wall on its border with Mexico after all—but it strikes me as still more accomodating than what passes for immigration policy in France.