Leïla Slimani, a French-Moroccan novelist, was awarded France's top literary award, the Prix Goncourt, on Thursday for her book Chanson Douce (Sweet Song), a thriller that opens with the killing of two young children by their caretaker. The novel, which draws on elements from the real story of a nanny from the Dominican Republic who has been accused of killing two children under her care in New York in 2012, pieces together disparate events that culminate in a nightmarish outcome.
Several commentators had predicted that Ms. Slimani would win. The novel has been a best seller — more than 76,000 copies have been purchased — and Ms. Slimani, 35, has a high profile as a former journalist at Jeune Afrique, a French-language magazine of African news. “She’s a young woman, talented, so we’re completely in the spirit of the Goncourt prize,” Bernard Pivot, the head of the Goncourt Academy, said at a Facebook Live chat organized by the newspaper Le Figaro on Thursday. Ms. Slimani, who left Morocco for France at 17 and enrolled at Sciences Po in Paris, one of the country’s most prestigious universities, made her entrance onto the literary scene in 2014 with the critically acclaimed novel “Dans le Jardin de l’Ogre” (“In the Ogre’s Garden”), a look at the life of a sex-addicted woman in some of the most chic neighborhoods of Paris.