French book prize under fire after judge’s partner makes shortlist

The jury for France’s top literary prize, the Goncourt, has been engulfed in a row over ethical breaches after the shortlist included a book by the boyfriend of one of the judges.

The same judge wrote a scathing review of one of the other contenders for the prize after it had been nominated.

“The literary prize season has barely begun and already the first selection for the Goncourt seems mired in a conflict of interest,” France Inter radio reported. It pointed out that the jury member, Camille Laurens, was the girlfriend of François Noudelmann, a philosopher shortlisted for the Goncourt for his memoir The Children of Cadillac.

The president of the Goncourt Academy, Didier Decoin, told France Inter: “We felt this was not a reason to penalise a good book.”

The academy’s secretary, Philippe Claudel, told AFP that several jury members had liked the book before discovering the relationship. They had voted on the issue and decided there was nothing wrong with including friends and family in the selection, hy het gesê.

Egter, he said Laurens’ scathing review in Le Monde of The Postcard by Anne Berest was a clear breach of the Goncourt rules. The review was published this month, shortly after the book was shortlisted for the Goncourt.

“I didn’t like that at all. And we will talk about it,” Decoin told France Inter.

The 10-person jury will announce this year’s winner on 3 November.

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