France’s Main Literary Juries Award Prizes in a Yr of Scandal

France’s Main Literary Juries Award Prizes in a Yr of Scandal

PARIS — In its first award since a pedophilia scandal revealed deep-rooted collusion inside its ranks, certainly one of France’s high literary juries prevented the looks of any potential conflicts of curiosity on Monday by crowning the novel of a little-known feminine creator from a small publishing home.

Judges of the Renaudot gave the prize for greatest novel to Marie-Hélène Lafon, an outsider of France’s clubby literary circles. Her e book, “Histoire du fils,’’ was revealed by Buchet-Chastel, an organization with an annual catalog of about 50 works and the first-time winner of a significant award.

The jury of the Renaudot has been below intense scrutiny since members acknowledged rewarding the pedophile author Gabriel Matzneff within the essay class in 2013 to assist revive his profession and cheer him up. Its fierce resistance to alter has come to embody the tight grip of a longtime elite on France’s literary establishments.

This yr, like many earlier than it, the brief record for the prize was made up of literary insiders whose novels had been revealed by main firms and whose ties to a number of of the jurors had been broadly recognized. So the selection of Ms. Lafon was a protected one for a jury girding itself for criticism.

“I’m conscious that there are moral stakes at work behind all this,’’ Ms. Lafon stated after the award was introduced over Zoom due to coronavirus restrictions. “The scenario is perilous. We’re strolling on a tightrope.’’

However the selection of Ms. Lafon’s novel was applauded as a recognition of literary high quality by specialists and literature followers on social media. The saga spans a century and appears at a household secret that the principle character tries to unravel by reconstructing the family tree of his household.

The novel is “a good looking piece of labor” from a author whose rural background has lengthy impressed her books, stated Marie-Rose Guarnieri, a bookstore proprietor and a critic of France’s main literary juries, on which jurors often serve for all times. 20 years in the past, Ms. Guarnieri established the Wepler, a literary prize with a jury that modifications yearly.

However Ms. Guarnier stated she didn’t imagine the selection mirrored a profound shift within the Renaudot’s outlook. Over time, the jury has tried to deflect occasional criticism by rewarding an unknown creator from a small writer, she stated.

“After they start to appreciate that we are able to see how they work,” Ms. Guarnieri stated, “and particularly the massive conflicts of curiosity that come up from this fashion of choosing books, they make an enormous swing within the different course.’’

Reached by cellphone, Georges-Olivier Châteaureynaud, the president of the Renaudot, declined to remark.

Dominique Bona, the one lady among the many Renaudot’s 9 jurors and a member of the French Academy, informed the Agence France-Presse that her jury had turn out to be a “scapegoat.’’ The jurors, she stated, are “genuinely impressed by the love all of us have for literature.’’

Following many years of custom, the Renaudot introduced its winner instantly after the Goncourt, France’s high prize, made its selection recognized.

The prize for greatest novel went to Hervé Le Tellier, a former journalist, for “L’Anomalie,” a science-fiction thriller that revolves across the double lives of passengers aboard a Paris-New York flight. It was revealed by France’s most prestigious publishing home, Gallimard, which has now captured 38 Goncourt awards because the creation of the prize in 1903.

Early this yr, a tell-all e book about Mr. Matzneff led to unsettling revelations about collusion contained in the Renaudot jury. The author’s editor, Christian Giudicelli, and associates — all members of the jury — awarded him the prize for greatest essay in 2013. The entire Renaudot’s present 9 jurors had been a part of the jury that yr.

Mr. Giudicelli has been questioned in an ongoing police investigation into Mr. Matzneff’s pedophilia and has drawn criticism for the position he performed in furthering his pal’s profession. Activists within the metropolis of Vichy have pressed him to step down from a literary jury financed by the native authorities, the place he has additionally lengthy been a juror.

“So long as Mr. Giudicelli is just not suspended, town is formally contemplating suspending our monetary participation within the prize,’’ Frédéric Aguilera, the mayor of Vichy, stated in a cellphone interview Monday.

The highlight on the Renaudot has additionally raised questions concerning the legitimacy of France’s different high prizes, together with the Goncourt.

Jurors serve for all times — or till age 80 on the Goncourt — and choose prize winners in a course of rife with conflicts of pursuits. None adhere to the strict requirements of Britain’s Booker or the Pulitzer in america, whose juries change yearly and whose jurors recuse themselves over potential conflicts of curiosity.

Nonetheless, variations exist among the many high prizes, and the Renaudot suffers from essentially the most potential conflicts of pursuits, with 4 of its 9 present jurors working for publishers whose books had been amongst award candidates this yr.

The Goncourt is taken into account — in France a minimum of — the cleanest jury. Alone amongst high prizes, the Goncourt has carried out reforms, in 2008, that barred jurors from working at a publishing firm and created a compulsory retirement age of 80.

“What’s extraordinary is {that a} reform was mandatory,’’ stated Pierre Assouline, a author and juror on the Goncourt since 2012. “A battle of curiosity on this planet of enterprise is condemned straight away. However not right here.’’

The Renaudot by no means thought of choosing up any of the Goncourt’s modifications, longtime jurors stated. Over the previous 20 years, potential conflicts of curiosity have solely elevated on the jury.

From 2010 to 2019, on common, practically three of the Renaudot jurors shared publishing ties with a laureate for the novel class — up from barely one between 2000 and 2009, based on an evaluation by The New York Occasions.

Although the Goncourt’s reforms had been wanting the requirements on the Booker or Pulitzer, they’d an instantaneous influence on the composition of the prize winners. Earlier than the overhaul, prizes had been monopolized by massive publishers with robust ties to the Goncourt jurors.

Actes Sud, as soon as a small writer that — on precept — has lengthy refused to permit its editors to serve on juries, had been virtually utterly shut out of the massive awards for many years. However because the 2008 reforms, Actes Sud has scooped up 4 Goncourt prizes, together with in 2012 for Jérôme Ferrari’s novel, “The Sermon on the Fall of Rome.’’

The monetary windfall was quick: Solely 9,700 copies had been offered earlier than the novel made the Goncourt’s first record. Inclusion on the record helped gross sales rise to 52,000, after which they skyrocketed to 370,000 after the award.

“It’s simply remodeled into a straightforward Christmas current,’’ Mr. Ferrari stated in a latest interview, referring to the recognition of prize-winning books as vacation presents.

Different high juries, just like the Femina, debated emulating the Goncourt, however in the end determined in opposition to any change, stated Christine Jordis, a Femina juror since 1996 and a longtime editor {and professional} reader at Gallimard.

Ms. Jordis stated she had led the combat in opposition to barring jurors from working at publishing firms, believing that her years as an editor gave her experience.

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