by Emily Ramser
Mathias Énard was recently awarded the 2015 Prix Goncourt for his work Boussole. This means that once again for the 102nd time, the Prix Goncourt was awarded to a male author. In the past 113 years, the Prix Goncourt has only been awarded to female authors 11 times.
The Prix Goncourt is a prize presented by Académie Goncourt, a French literary organization founded by Edmond de Goncourt in the early 1900s, which honors the best piece of French prose published that year. The prize was first awarded to a female author in 1944. It was given to Elsa Triolet for her work A Fine of 200 Francs. Lydie Salvayre was the last female to win the prize for her work Pas pleurer in 2014. Over the entirety of its existence, only 10 percent of prize winners of the Prix Goncourt have been women.
However, the Prix Goncourt is not the only literary award to have a skewed gender ratio in regards to its awardees. For example, out of the 64 winners of the Georg Büchner Prize, only 14 percent have been women. For the Pulitzer Prize, 34 percent of winners have been women and for the Man Booker Prize, 36 percent of winners have been female authors. The Miguel de Cervantes prize, which is awarded to an outstanding writer in the Spanish language biyearly, has only had 4 female winners since its inauguration in 1976. The Camões Prize, arguably the most important Portuguese literary prize, has been awarded to only 5 women over the past 26 years of its existence.
That said, women are beginning to earn more and more literary awards. Belarusian writer Svetlana Alexievich was awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize for literature this past October, making her the 14th woman to win the prize. As well, this summer, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America awarded the Nebula Awards, and of the six awarded, women won five. Last week, Robin Coste Lewis won the National Book Award in Poetry for 2015 for Voyage of the Sable Venus. There are also many literary awards that are open exclusively to women such as the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction.
Despite this, there is still a long way to go in regards to closing the gender gap in the literary award world. In order to close this gap, we as a society need to reevaluate how we view women writers. We have to start picking up more books written by women and start giving them a chance to stand on their own.
Emily Ramser is an undergraduate studying English, Creative Writing, and Religion at Salem College in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Arts in English and Creative Writing, and is expected to graduate in May of 2017. Some of her inspirations include Thornton Wilder, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Bhanu Kapil, Andrea Gibson, Gabriel Gudding, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Gail Simone, and Alfred Lord Tennyson. Check out her black out poetry collection I Forgot How to Write When They Diagnosed Me. You can find more of her work at her blog.