French cartoonist Nine Antico’s Dupuis-published graphic novel Madones et Putains [Madonnas and Whores] won the comics category of the 2023 edition of French culture magazine Les Inrockuptibles’ annual literary prize, Prix Littéraire Les Inrockuptibles.

Cover of Madones et Putains, winner of Les Rockuptibles comics prize
Cover of Madones et Putains, winner of Les Rockuptibles 2023 Literary Prize (Comics Category)

The graphic novel, which focuses on the lives of three twentieth century Italian women, named after saints but confronted by the warped societal values of their time beat a competitive ten work shortlist that also included the French editions of Kate Beaton’s Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands (Environnement Toxique, trans. Alice Marchand, Casterman); Nick Drnaso’s Acting Class (trans. Renaud Cerqueux, Presque Lune Éditions); and Keigo Shinzo’s Hirayasumi vol 1 (trans. Sylvain Chollet, Le Lézard Noir).

Les Inrockuptibles magazine’s prize jury said [translated by DeepL]:

“[O]ur comics prize goes to the magnificent Madones et Putains by Nine Antico (Dupuis), which follows the lives of three women – all named after saints – in patriarchal Italy in the 20th century. The black-and-white drawing is as gothic as it is luminous, fascinating and spellbinding, and the editing avoids all classicism, making a political point without needing to press the issue. Nine Antico has established herself as one of today’s leading comic book authors, and deserved the prize.”

The translated synopsis of the book:

“Nine Antico’s three short stories, inspired by real women, provide a snapshot of the condition of women in 20th-century Italy. First there’s Agata, sent by her father to a sanatorium to escape the public scandal triggered by the murder of her mother by her lover. Then there’s Lucia, shorn and excluded from social life after the Second World War for sleeping with a German soldier. And finally, Rosalia, placed under witness protection after giving up the names of several of her village’s mafiosi… These three young women, all named after saints, will be sacrificed on the altar of societal values, despite their determination, courage and innocence… Madonnas et putains, a powerful tale like an ancient drama and as precise as a sociological study, whose graphic beauty and message cannot leave anyone indifferent.”

Currently Madones et Putains is unavailable in English. A previous work written by the author, Il était 2 fois Arthur (A Tale of Two Arthurs), also published by Dupuis and illustrated by Grégoire Carlé, had an English edition released by Europe Comics in 2020. 

Les Inrockuptibles is a French culture magazine that has been published since 1986. The annual Prix Littéraire Les Inrockuptibles began in 2020 and has awards spread across five categories – French-originated novels, debut novels, foreign novels, essays, and comics (bande dessinée). 

The 2023 jury comprised Les Inrockuptibles contributing writers and critics: Nelly Kaprièlian, Carole Boinet, Vincent Brunner, Jean-Marie Durand, Emmanuel Hoog, Jean-Marc Lalanne, Gérard Lefort, Pauline Le Gall and Sylvie Tanette.

The fourth edition of the Prix Littéraire Les Inrockuptibles, previous winners in the comics category have included 2020‘s Pucelle vol 1, by Florence Dupré La Tour (Dargaud); 2021‘s L’Entaille [tr. The Cut], Antoine Maillard (Cornélius), and last year’s winner Vernon Subutex vol 2, by Virginie Despentes & Luz (Albin Michel).

You can view the full shortlist here.