What is la rentrée littéraire?

Join our annual celebration of this much-loved French tradition

What is la rentrée littéraire?

Each year, in the period between late-August and early-November, there's a flurry of excitement in bookshops around France as readers hurry to get their hands on the most popular new novels. 

Spanning across every genre and style, over 500 new titles make their way onto shelves, offering a perfect way to discover the latest works from new and known French authors. 

During this same period is the French literary award season. The prestigious Prix Femina, Prix Goncourt, Prix Médicis, Prix Renaudot and the Grand Prix du roman de l’Académie Française are awarded, with many of the winning titles being given prime position on shelves as book-lovers pile into bookshops. 

What are the origins? 

The French phrase la rentrée - meaning "the return" or the equivalent of "back to school" - is commonly used to refer to the start of the school year at the end of the summer holidays. 

Interestingly, no one really knows exactly where the la rentrée littéraire originated. 

Some attribute this to the French author Mallarmé, who coined the term la rentrée théâtrale for the autumn theatre season, although the term didn't become popular until the 19th century. 

In 1903, the first Prix Goncourt was awarded to John Antoine Nau. This literary prize has become increasingly prestigious ever since. 

In the 1950s, publishers started releasing their best new titles right before the literary prizes were announced, and so was born this cultural phenomenon of la rentrée littéraire.

How can I get involved this year? 

You can enjoy your very own slice of la rentrée littéraire at Alliance Française de Sydney. Once again this year, members will be able to get their hands on the newest French releases through our Media Centre, as well as their soft copies through our Culturetheque e-library, and all free-of-charge.

Stay up to date with our full program of celebrations for la rentrée littéraire on our website, by subscribing to our newsletter or becoming a member. 


Lire, c’est boire et manger; l’esprit qui ne lit pas maigrit comme le corps qui ne mange pas. 

Reading is drinking and eating. The mind that does not read is as thin as the body that does not eat

- Victor Hugo

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