Moroccan-born Leila Slimani won France’s top literary prize, the Goncourt, yesterday with a novel guaranteed to scare the wits out of parents.
The chilling tale of a nanny who murders the two children she is looking after is based on the real-life story of a Dominican child-minder shortly to stand trial for the double murder of her charges in New York in 2012.The book, Chanson Douce (roughly translated as Sweet Song), which begins with the words “the baby is dead”, is already a bestseller in France.
A mother herself, Slimani, 35, who caused a stir with her first book about a nymphomaniac, said the idea of paying someone to love your children for you fascinated her.
“It leads to a very ambiguous relationship. We are always afraid they will steal our place in our children’s hearts,” she said.
The former journalist is only the seventh woman to have won the Goncourt in its 112-year history.
Mobbed by reporters outside the Paris restaurant where the prize was announced, she said: “It is hard to talk about literature in this craziness.”
Although Slimani gets only ß10(R148) in prize money, the Goncourt almost guarantees a boost in sales of 450 000 copies or more.
The separate Renaudot prize, often seen as something of a consolation prize, went to Babylone by Yasmina Reza, best known for her hit play Art.
It is also a crime novel in which a dinner party dispute over free-range chicken has fatal consequences.