A book from a companion of one of Goncourt’s jury members has been retained in the first selection of the prestigious literary prize. Former jury chairman Bernard Pivot said it was “surprised”.
Paris – In Paris, it was not until the first scandal of literary comebacks that bullets were fired on the sidewalks.
In France, September traditionally sees publishing houses publish their most promising books and undertake major maneuvers to best place them in the race for literary prices. The world of characters is thrown into the ‘Ultimate Fighting Championship’ Rive Gouache version.
This season was going smoothly – the impossible, the unnatural, some jokes. literary supervisor – until a scandal sabotaged the most prestigious French literary prize, and is still known for its honesty: goncourtThe standard-bearer of the French novel for 118 years, which counts among its award winners Proust, Simone de Beauvoir and Marguerite Dures.
It all started this month during a lunch between ten jurors from Goncourt – on the menu: Roasted Duck with Cherries and Château Moucailou 2015 – gathered to decide on the first select list of contenders for the prize. The author’s companion of one of the competing novels turned out to be Camille Lawrence, one of the jury members, a novelist and literary critic for the newspaper Le Monde. In fact, the book is dedicated to “CL”.
Despite this, the jury chose 3 out of 7 votes to retain the novel on its list. Ms. Lawrence is part of the majority.
Such a vote would surprise no one if it were the other major French literary prizes – these reforms have always denied the aim of making them fairer and more transparent. But Goncourt is different because the improvements made since 2008 have undoubtedly made it more honest and credible.
However, the man at the core of these changes, Bernard Pivot – a figure famous in the world of books in France, recognized for his religiosity – retired from Goncourt’s presidency at the end of 2019. Since then, the question of the existence of the reforms after his departure has happily fed conversations in the cafes of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, the left bank stronghold of the French literary class.
In a first interview about the scandal, Mr Pivot said he was “surprised” and “shocked” by Goncourt’s decision to include the book on his list.
“It is clear that as president of the Académie Goncourt, I would not have acknowledged that the novel of a husband, or wife, lover, lover, is on the list.” Mr Pivot said angrily, his voice full of anger.
he adds that “Which refuses to put you on the list of a book whose author is a close friend of one of Goncourt’s members, it’s understandable. “
The stakes are huge. An award-winning book naturally becomes a Christmas gift by default at Goncourt in November. “L’Anomalie”, which was awarded last year, has sold over one million copies, an astronomical figure for France.
Collusion within the great French literary juries was exposed last year when some jurors of the Renadot, the second most prestigious prize in France, crowned Gabriel Matznef, a pedophile writer, in 2013 as a friend they had been a friend of. wanted to please. hard time.
In Renadot and other Grand Prix, jurors openly campaign for works in which they have a personal or commercial interest. Some judges are publishers in large publishing houses and defend books owned by their employers, or even books they have edited themselves.
Before the reforms, Goncourt was also described by some of its opponents as “Mafia Goncourt”, recalls the current president of the jury, didier decoin, juror since 1995.
But under the leadership of Bernard Pivot, profound changes were introduced. Jury members can no longer be employees of publishing houses and are not appointed for life. He now has to retire from the jury at the age of 80 and is actually required to read the books in the competition.
The effect of the reforms was immediate. An analysis by the New York Times shows that in the decade before the 2008 reforms, on average, every year, nearly two in 10 of Le Goncourt’s jurors were associated with the winner’s publishing house. Since 2008, that number has fallen to one.
Thanks to the reforms, initially modest publishing houses such as Acts Sud – which had hardly any right of citizenship in Goncourt because it refused to lobby for Price – began to win more often. Since 2008, Acts Süd has won four Prix Goncourts.
“I think the luck I had is that I came at the moment of change in practice,” guesses Jerome Ferrari, whose “sermon on the fall of Rome” won Goncourt in 2012 in an interview last year. . .
Earlier this month, 10 jurors from Goncourt met for lunch at the Parisian restaurant Dront, which has hosted jury meetings for nearly a century.
He made a list of 16 titles. One of them needed a special vote.”Cadillac Kidswhose author, François Naudelmann, is Camille Lawrence’s partner. From a 7 to 3 hand performance, the jury concluded that there was no conflict of interest, partly because Ms. Laurens and Mr. Knodelmann are neither married nor married. are in a civil union.
In an email interview, Ms Lawrence, who has been a jury member for the past year, said she was honest about their relationship, and read the book “never made other jurors”.
Some members of the jury, including its chairman Didier Decoin, were however surprised that they participated in the vote.
“I thought she would not vote,” said Mr. DeCoin, who was in the minority of the 3 jurors who voted. “She voted. Well. It’s weird, but it’s up to her.”
Philippe Claude, the secretary-general of the jury, who was part of the majority who voted for the vote, explains that no internal rule prohibited Ms. Lauren from voting.
“We can’t, in my opinion, blame Camille Lawrence for breaking a rule that doesn’t exist,” he said.
She added that there was no rule preventing Ms. Lawrence from doing what she added.
Nine days after Goncourt unveiled its first selection, long term Published in Le Monde, Camille Lawrence sharply criticized another book that appeared there: “The Postcard”, by Anne Berest.
In what is alarming in literary circles, “The Postcard” is being regarded as a direct competitor to his fellow book “Children of Cadillac”. Both novels deal with similar themes – the Jewish exile in France, the Holocaust – but “La Carte Postel” enjoyed widespread critical and commercial success, while “Les Enfants de Cadillac” made little noise.
Criticism of Ms Lawrence has also drawn attention due to its “unheard violence”. France Inter, which was the first media outlet to reveal a conflict of interest.
by weekly l’obsoThe criticism turned into a personal attack on Anne Berest, describing her as an “expert in Parisian chic”, entering a gas chamber with “her large red-soled clogs”. Ms. Lawrence writes that the novel is similar to “The Shoah for Dummies”.
In her email, Camille Laurens says she wrote her review before Le Goncourt decided on her first selection. She feels that she is an “independent critic” and is targeted because she is a woman.
“This isn’t the first time I’ve reviewed a scathing book,” she writes. “And once again, I see that my arguments are never discussed, and people like to say that I am ‘violent’ and ‘mean.
But for Jean-Yves Molire, an academic specializing in the history of French publishing, criticism is part of a tradition of maneuvering for literary prizes.
“He outright murdered one of the candidates,” he admits.
Didier DeCoin says he will propose a new rule that would require jurors with conflicts of interest to abstain from voting. Philip Claudell says he accepts this but insists the current jurors are as concerned with ethics as Mr Pivot was.
“Bernard Pivot is a good moral person, and I think everyone around this table is too,” he said. “It would be highly unfair to say that morality rests only on one person.”