Fred Vargas, Princess of Asturias Award for Literature

French writer Fred Vargas has been granted the 2018 Princess of Asturias Award for Literature, as announced today in Oviedo by the Jury responsible for conferring said Award.

Minutes of the Jury: At its meeting in Oviedo, the Jury for the 2018 Princess of Asturias Award for Literature, composed of Xosé Ballesteros Rey, Blanca Berasátegui, Luis Alberto de Cuenca, Lola Larumbe Doral, Antonio Lucas, Ángeles Mora, Leonardo Padura, Laura Revuelta Sanjurjo, Carmen Riera, Fernando Rodríguez Lafuente, Ana Santos, Sergio Vila-Sanjuán, Juan Villoro, chaired by Darío Villanueva Prieto and with José Luis García Delgado acting as secretary, has decided to confer the 2018 Princess of Asturias Award for Literature on French writer Fred Vargas (Frédérique Audoin-Rouzeau). Trained as an archaezoologist, she envisages society as a mysterious and complex ecosystem. What stands out in her narrative work are the originality of her plots, the irony with which she describes the characters, the depth of her cultural insights and her overflowing imagination, which opens up unprecedented literary horizons to readers.

Her writing combines intrigue, action and reflection at a pace that recalls the characteristic musicality of fine French prose. In each of her novels, history emerges as a metaphor of an unsettling present. The vicissitudes of time and the exposure of evil are combined in a solid literary architecture, set against a disquieting backdrop that, for the reader’s enjoyment, is always solved as a logical challenge. For all this, Fred Vargas embodies the renewal of a genre, the thriller, to which she has brilliantly contributed original pieces, atmospheres and settings that make up an oeuvre of universal scope.

18874_2Biography: Frédérique Audoin-Rouzeau (Paris, 7th June 1957), known by the pseudonym Fred Vargas, is a French writer, archaeozoologist and medievalist, and author of crime fiction novels. The daughter of writer Philippe Audoin (surrealist, a friend of Breton), has a twin sister, Jo Vargas, who is a painter, while her brother is the historian Stéphane Audoin-Rouzeau. She studied for her baccalaureate at the Molière Institute in Paris and earned her PhD in History with a thesis on the plague in the Middle Ages. She has worked as a researcher at the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS, for its acronym in French) and at the Pasteur Institute, and is specialized in archaeozoology. She has also worked at the archaeological excavations in Rue de Lutèce, in front of the Palais de Justice in Paris, and in the monastery of La Charité-sur-Loire.

She wrote her first crime fiction novel, Les Jeux de l’amour et de la mort, in the mid-80s, in parallel with her work at an archaeological excavation in Nièvre, winning first prize at the Cognac Festival with this book. She chose the pseudonym Vargas, as did her twin sister Jo, in homage to María Vargas, the character played by Ava Gardner in The Barefoot Contessa. The main series of novels by Vargas, and the one that has been the most successful, is that of Commissaire Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg. She has also published other novels not including this character and some works of nonfiction. Vargas gives great importance in her texts to the characters, subplots and dialogues. She also highlights in her writing the presence of legends and historical events and the importance of humour and poetry.

She has written the series featuring police chief Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg: L’Homme aux cercles bleus (1991) [The Chalk Circle Man, 2009], L’Homme à l’envers (1999) [Seeking Whom He May Devour, 2004], Pars vite et reviens tard (2001) [Have Mercy on Us All, 2003], Sous les vents de Neptune (2004) [Wash This Blood Clean from My Hand, 2007], Dans les bois éternels (2006) [This Night’s Foul Work, 2008], A lieu incertain (2008) [An Uncertain Place, 2010], L’Armée furieuse [The Ghost Riders of Ordebec, 2013), Temps glaciaires [A Climate of Fear, 2016] and Quand sort la recluse (2017), in addition to the volume of three short novels featuring Adamsberg entitled Coule la Seine (2002) and the series Les Trois Évangélistes [The Three Evangelists]: Debout les morts (1995) [The Three Evangelists, 2014], A peu plus loin sur la droite (1996) [Dog Will Have His Day, 2014] and Sans feu ni lieu (1997) [The Accordionist, 2017]. Her other novels are: Les Jeux de l’amour et de la mort (1986), L’École du crime(1987, unpublished) and Ceux qui vont mourir te saluent (1994). In collaboration with Boudoin, she has published the comics Les Quatre Fleuves (2000) and Le Marchand d’éponges (2010). She is also the author of the essays Petit traité de toutes vérités sur l’existence (2001), Critique de l’anxiété pure (2003) and La Vérité sur Cesare Battiste (2004). In her real name, she has published the studies Ossements animaux du Moyen Âge au monastère de la Charité-sur-Loire (1986), Hommes et animaux en Europe: corpus de données archéozoologiques et historiques (1993), Les Chemins de la plage, le rat, the puce et l’homme (2003) and Un aliment sain dans un corps sain: Perspectives historiques (2007). Part of her work has also been adapted for film and television.

Holder of the Prix Landerneau (2015), the International Dagger Award on three consecutive occasions, the Prix Mystère de la critique (1996 and 2000), the Grand Prix for Crime Fiction at the Cognac Festival (1999), the French Bookstore Award and the Trophée 813 for Best Novel in French, among other awards.

Previous award-winners

Source: Princess of Asturias Foundation

You can see A Crime is Afoot reviews of Fred Vargas’ books using the blog search option.

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