Marcel Proust, Marguerite Duras and Simone de Beauvoir have all won the Goncourt Prize in the past, AFP wrote.
“If Jean-Paul Dubois’s novels were translated from English, he would have the same status as John Irving or William Boyd in France,” Bernard Pivot, President of the Goncourt Academy, said.
The author’s 22nd book tells the story of Paul Hansen, who has spent two years in a Bordeaux prison.
The story is narrated through Hansen, about how he came to share his cell with a Hells Angels member who is both scary and touching and who, while dreaming about killing people, is terrified of mice and hair-dressing scissors.
“I will be the same tomorrow as I was this morning,” insisted the writer, who still lives in the beautiful house in Toulouse where he was born.
The sad, nostalgic hero of his new book also has roots in the southwestern French city.
But his life is destroyed by a moment of madness and he finds himself sharing a tiny cell in a Canadian jail with a Hells Angel who has threatened to “cut him in two” if he gets on the wrong side of him.
Yet the hulking thug is reduced to jelly by the sight of mice and a barber’s scissors.
The chairman of the Goncourt jury Bernard Pivot described Dubois as a French “John Irving or William Boyd,” writing highly entertaining books that are both popular and critical successes.
Several French critics had hailed the novel as Dubois’ best.
To keep himself sane, the narrator, Paul Hansen, talks to the dead in his head.
They include his late partner Winona, a half-Irish, half-Native American hydroplane pilot; his dog Nouk; his father, a Danish pastor, and his French mother.
While Dubois gets only 10 euros ($11) for winning the Goncourt, the prize almost guarantees a boost in sales of 450,000 copies or more, placing it instantly among the year's top bestsellers.
Minutes later the Renaudot, often seen as the consolation prize, was handed to Sylvain Tesson for ‘The Snow Leopard,’ an account of his search in Tibet for one of the most endangered animals on the planet.
“I hope it will help us save and better understand these animals which have so much need of our help now,” Tesson said.
“I feel like the rabbit who has been pulled out of a hat,” he joked, or “a leopard in a world where order has been restored.”