Many times crowned, with the Deux Magots prize, in 2002, for “I am in the South Seas” (Grasset), and the Femina prize for the essay, in 2017, for “My steps go elsewhere” (Stock) , as well as “La part du fils”, Jean Giono Prize 2019 (Stock), Jean-Luc Coatalem was elected, at 62, and unanimously, Writer of Marine. This cenacle chaired by Didier Decoin, also president of the Goncourt Academy, includes academicians, Erik Orsenna, Jean-Christophe Rufin, and Daniel Rondeau, a few backpackers such as Sylvain Tesson or Patrice Franceschi, navigators with Isabelle Autissier and Anne Quéméré, but also Jean Rolin, Hervé Hamon and Yann Queffélec, the painter Titouan Lamazou, and the editor Olivier Frébourg, without forgetting Patrick Poivre d’Arvor, as well as a tandem of admirals, François Bellec and Loïc Finaz.
After having committed themselves to “preserving the culture and heritage of the sea, as well as the maritime dimension of France”, all have the rank of reserve frigate captain, and wear a badge stamped with an anchor and ‘a feather. They can also embark on one of the Navy boats, and thus feed their imagination. It rarely runs dry, but like the cartridge pen, which some still use, it has to be recharged over and over again.
His recognized art of travelogue
Irony of this enthronement: at the very moment when Coatalem was going to the Navy staff to receive his distinction from the hands of Admiral Vandier, a colloquium on Victor Segalen at the National Library saluted the contribution of the writer- traveler to the influence of the Breton poet. As early as 1992, Jean-Luc Coatalem was, in fact, among the authors of the “Manifesto for a traveling literature”, alongside Nicolas Bouvier, Jacques Lacarrière, Michel Le Bris, and Kenneth White.
As much as his family roots in Brest, it is therefore his art of travelogue that the Writers of Marine wanted to crown, and this without falling for all that into “the chubby gossip of sincere words”, in the words of Segalen . “I am less amarinated than most of you,” replied the applicant, “but I will be happy to take the catwalk with you.”
In the company of the Spanish writer Arturo Perez Reverte, and the Italian novelist Andrea Marcolongo, also admitted that day, to demonstrate the openness to the world of this baroque crew placed under the aegis of the anchor and feather.