A crazy novel with an intriguing title, a poignant story about forced marriage, a dive into a family history and a fresco on Morocco compete for the prestigious Goncourt Prize, awarded Monday in France in a new format, 48 hours after the reopening of bookstores .
The health crisis and the closure of restaurants have forced the jury to fall back on a videoconference and to do without the traditional deliberations around a table.
The name of the winner will be announced at 12:30 pm for this prize, the most prestigious in French literature. Then, at 12.50 p.m., it will be followed by another prize, the Renaudot, which rewards a novel as well as an essay.
For the literary journalists interviewed by the specialized monthly Livres Hebdo, including that of AFP, it is Hervé Le Tellier who holds the rope for Goncourt, with “The Anomalies“.
In addition to being published by Gallimard, an often-awarded publishing house, this book, built like a clever construction game and with breathtaking suspense, has already convinced a large audience.
The Goncourt Academy could however prefer him “The impatient“(Emmanuelle Colas editions) by Cameroonian Djaïli Amadou Amal, who has already defied all forecasts by arriving in the last selection.
If it rewarded this poignant story on the oppression of women forcibly married, the Goncourt would breathe new life into the prize list by dedicating an author from sub-Saharan Africa, hitherto unknown to the circles of the Parisian edition.
The other two finalist novels keep all their chances: “Theseus, his new life“by Camille de Toledo (Verdier editions), a vast reflection on the weight of the family heritage, and”The historiographer of the kingdom“by Maël Renouard (Grasset), a brilliant exercise in style which describes the Moroccan monarchy from the inside in the last century.
On Saturday, the New York Times denounced in an investigation the murky game of French literary juries, where according to the daily literary quality passes after flagrant conflicts of interest and intrigues difficult to read for the general public. The Goncourt is less directly targeted than the Renaudot.
These two prizes, awarded by volunteer juries, bring in almost nothing to a writer: 10 euros for the first, 0 euros for the second. But they constitute crucial economic issues for authors and publishers, because tens or even hundreds of thousands of readers trust these labels.
Aware of this issue, the two prices preferred to wait for the reopening of bookstores, which took place on Saturday after a month of closure for health reasons.
In addition to unprecedented conditions, the Goncourt is distinguished this year by a partly renewed jury. The journalist Bernard Pivot left the presidency of the Academy at the end of 2019, and the novelist Virginie Despentes resigned in early 2020. The essayist Pascal Bruckner and the novelist Camille Laurens have joined the jury now chaired by the writer Didier Decoin.
At Renaudot, the journalist and writer Jérôme Garcin resigned in March with the intention of creating a renewal and promoting the presence of women on the jury. He has not yet found a successor.
In 2019, the Goncourt was won by Jean-Paul Dubois, with “Not all men inhabit the world the same“. The Renaudot had chosen the novel by Sylvain Tesson”The Snow Panther“, and Eric Neuhoff’s essay”(Very) dear French cinema“.