Guy Boley’s Award-Winning Novel: “To My Only Sister” and the Nietzschean Odyssey

Guy Boley’s novel, “To My Only Sister,” has been chosen as the recipient of the 2023 Deux Magots prize. The decision was reached by the jury, led by Étienne de Montety, president of the jury, with seven votes in favor and five against.

In this expansive novel, Guy Boley explores the lives of Elisabeth and Friedrich Nietzsche, focusing on their intricate connection. He depicts Elisabeth as both a protector and a contentious editor of her brother’s work, as Friedrich Nietzsche descended into madness and silence. Elisabeth’s association with Richard Wagner and her embrace of her husband’s anti-Semitic extremism, which led to the founding of an Aryan colony in Paraguay known as Nueva Germania, also feature prominently.

Guy Boley’s distinctive style and originality, first noted in his autobiographical novel “Son of Fire” in 2016, are evident in “To My Only Sister.” Boley’s previous works include a heartfelt tribute to his father titled “When God Boxed as an Amateur.”

Throughout the approximately 450 pages of “To My Only Sister,” Guy Boley takes readers on a captivating journey through the intertwined destinies of Friedrich Nietzsche, the philosopher and author of “Thus Spoke Zarathustra,” who descended into madness at 45, and Elisabeth, who played a complex role in her brother’s life. She forcefully pushed aside Lou Salomé, her brother’s muse, and edited his manuscripts before publication.

The novel explores the dual destinies of Friedrich Nietzsche, described as the “wandering fugitive” and master of his madness, and Elisabeth, who had affiliations with Nazism. The narrative spans locations from Leipzig to Venice, including Basel, Bayreuth, Nice, Genoa, Sils-Maria, and Paraguay. Boley’s writing is both incisive and poetic, reflecting his deep passion for the subject matter.

The Deux Magots prize, established in 1933, has recognized a diverse array of authors over the years, including Raymond Queneau (the inaugural winner), Antoine Blondin, André Hardellet, Christian Bobin, Gilles Lapouge, Éric Neuhoff, Serge Joncour, and Pierre Adrian. Étienne de Montety of Le Figaro chairs the prize jury, which includes notable figures such as Isabelle Carré, Clara Dupont-Monod, Benoît Duteurtre, Jean-Luc Coatalem, and Abel Quentin. The prize carries a value of 7,700 euros.

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