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The 2020 SPG Literary Prize: Discover the winner and the story of her first novel

Posted 17 | 06 | 2020
Categories Littérature, News

Simona Brunel-Ferrarelli was named the winner of the SPG Literary Prize for a first French-language novel for Les battantes on Thursday 4 June. Her first novel stood out amongst the 19 that were accepted as entries in the 2020 competition. Because of the current health crisis, we were unable to hold the traditional prize ceremony. However, we wanted to take this opportunity to introduce you to her and her first work. After all, who better t introduce her own work than herself ?





Short biography

Simona Brunel-Ferrarelli was born in Rome in 1965 and came to Geneva ten years later. After completing her studies in Humanities, she taught French literature at various private schools. Passionate about writing and theatre, she wrote prolifically, but never dreamt of being published. Upon the death of her mother, she wrote her first novel, Les battantes, with the intention of submitting it this time.


A successful novel

For this novel, published by Encre Fraîche, in addition to the SPG Literary Prize for a first French-language novel, the manuscript received an award from the Geneva Writers Society in 2018, from the City of Geneva and the Republic and Canton of Geneva. Furthermore, the novel was amongst the 10 finalists in the 2019 Geneva Book Fair. Finally, it has also been nominated for the 2020 Lettres Frontières prize. Already a remarkable public success!


Les battantes, in the heart of an Italian village

The inhabitants of Rocca Patrizia, a village in the Roman region, thrive on secrets, silence and longstanding grudges between clans: there are those with whom one may socialise, and then there are the others. The rival families of the village live and grow in an atmosphere of suspicion, scorn, and jealousy. Meanwhile, their children, between innocent games and the impulses of puberty, find themselves in a parallel dimension in which forbidden loves are forged, away from the watchful gaze of the adults. Even so, everything eventually comes to light and is left to the mercy of everyone’s judgment. This is the backdrop against which unfolds the story of Pablo, a delicately beautiful boy, and Lala, a sort of wild girl with whom he will become hopelessly smitten.


Remarks from the jury

The members of the jury unanimously lauded this initial literary work, exhibiting singular reactions to the forceful writing:

  • Thierry Barbier-Mueller: It is rare for a first novel to find unanimous favour with a panel of literary judges. However, Les battantes by Simona Brunel-Ferrarelli won all of us over with the boldness of its narrative and the originality of its voice.
  • Isabelle Falconnier: With her narrative on a family secret that is finally revealed, the author exhibits unforgettable evocative power in this novel on adolescence and the discovery of love, the destructive, neurotic power of things left unsaid, and the life of a village where intimate stories make the world go round without ever speaking their name. Simona Brunel-Ferrarelli displays poetic force with writing that is mesmerising, sensual and subtle.
  • Hélène Leibkutsch: This novel is a literary tour de force.
  • Sofia Baureder: A novel brimming with life, torments, and the folly of forbidden love in an Italian village where tradition has a sharp tongue. Brunel-Ferrarelli juxtaposes various layers of time and points of view, gripping us with her powerful, poetic writing.


Discover this beautiful first novel this summer and be sure to come back next year for the eighth annual SPG Literary Prize for a first French-language novel!