Mon dieu! As l’automne arrive en Paris, un scandale brews in the French literary monde concerning le plus prestigious award in littérature française, l’amour, et un vicious book review.
Le prix Goncourt, the 118-year-old award that basically guarantees the winning livre will become a bestseller, is supposed to be “known for its probity,” per le New York Times. (Probity means “adherence to the highest principles and ideals,” merci beaucoup, Merriam-Webster.) Mais cette année, un livre that made it on the shortlist happens to be written by le boyfriend de one of the jurors, Camille Laurens. In fact, le Times notes, the book — The Children of Cadillac by François Noudelmann — is dedicated to “C.L.” While this may appear to be a conflict of interest, the jury decided it was okay to allow Laurens to vote on her partner’s livre parce qu’ils ne sont pas married or in a civil union, and il n’y a pas un rule against her voting. Laurens was among the majority — 7 to 3 — who voted to include The Children of Cadillac on the Goncourt shortlist.
Mais what happened après was even more scandaleux. Laurens, a reviewer at Le Monde, soon thereafter used her column to lambaste another Goncourt-shortlisted livre, The Postcard by Anne Berest, which is considered a direct competitor of Lauren’s boyfriend’s roman. According to le Times:
Ms. Laurens’s review also drew attention because of its “unheard-of brutality,” according to France Inter, a public radio station, which first exposed the conflict of interest. L’Obs, a newsweekly, said that the review veered into personal attacks against Ms. Berest, describing her as an “expert on Parisian chic” and as entering a gas chamber with “her big red sole clogs.” The book, Ms. Laurens wrote, was “Shoah for idiots.”
Laurens defended her review to le Times by saying she wrote it before le prix Goncourt decided on its shortlist. Furthermore, she said, she was being singled out because elle est une femme.
Peut-être she has a point. Since when was it illegal to aime one’s boyfriend? Or to vote for the livre of that genius and sexy homme to be considered for the biggest literary prix en France? Or to write a book review taking down his direct competitor? Who is also une femme? After all, it is not sexiste to criticize une femme, unless it’s to criticize une femme for loving son garçon amoureux too much.
The winner of this year’s Goncourt will be announced on le 3 novembre. This may be la dernière fois le prix Goncourt produces such a wild et romantique ride; the jury’s president, Didier Decoin, told le Times that he will be pushing for a new rule requiring jurors with a conflict of interest to recuse themselves from voting. Ah well, enjoy it while it lasts, you amoureux fous!