Tuesday , October 4 2022

Bernard Pivot: "The price of Goncourt is a brand" – 10/11/2018



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First of all, what can you tell us about this year's Goncourt Prize winner, Nicolas Mathieu, and his novel "Their Children After These"?

We are quite in the tradition of Edmond de Goncourt, the crown of a fantastic work by a new writer (Nicolas Mathieu is 40, ed), who writes in a style a little new. This is a social novel for young people, written in the language of the young people as they did a few years ago after finishing the book in the 1998 World Cup. A very exciting book that shows all the problems, misfortunes, happiness of a generation trying to find its way and which, unfortunately, is often forced to stop its steps in those of its predecessors.

Is it a book that won easily in other years?

It won the fourth round of voting, so it was quite easy, with 6 votes against 4. I would say it is a very classic vote.

How is the election made?

Votes shall be spoken orally. The secretary draws up the order of the jury, so that those who vote last can be adapted according to the vote of others. There is a new draw at each poll. This year, there were 4 votes in favor of Nicolas Mathieu, 4 votes for Paul Greveillac and 2 votes for a third draftsman. Then he was 4-4-1-1 in the second round, and again the 4-4-2 in the third, so that the last two votes would eventually be gathered to Nicolas Mathieu at the expense of Paul Greveillac and his novels "Masters and slavi ". David Diop also received votes.

How many books are in the race at the beginning?

I would say that there are about 150 books of size to be in the fight for Goncourt. Each of the ten members, we read about fifty. We spend our summer holidays in June-July-August to read all this. Which requires a little generosity to members of the Goncourt Academy because while we read others, we do not work for ourselves. But it is nice to say, as today (the interview was held on Wednesday, named Goncourt Prize, ed), we have made the happiness and reputation of a worthy new writer. We are rewarded for these efforts.

What are your reading habits during these intense periods?

It is very variable. For example, it depends on whether it rains or not, if I have a family with me or not, if I'm in shape, if I travel. The good thing is that I can read anywhere, anytime. When I obviously take the train, I read, but I can also read by car next to the driver. On the other hand, I do not read on the beach or the pool. I still have to sit well and put my pen out.

50 pounds in three months, it's for a book every two days, it's intense!

There are also books that start without ending. I can very well stop after 30 or 40 pages when I feel like wasting my time.

Do you have a specific methodology?

Everyone does what he wants at the Goncourt Academy. For my part, I like to start with the first novels. That's what I did this year and I was rewarded because there were many very good first novels. Then, often, I associate with the writers already a little more familiar, which we know are the favorite of the prices. But I change: sometimes I start with big books, then small books. There is no real method. It is in accordance with the mood of the moment.

Have you been president of the Goncourt Academy since 2004 when you have incorporated it, is there a novel that has highlighted you more than any other during this time?

Many loved me very much. Jonathan Littell, of Goncourt's 2006 charity, is part of, like Leila Slimani's "Sweet Song", winner in 2016. "Goodbye Up there," Pierre Lemaitre (Goncourt 2013, ed) also noted. I would also like to emphasize that I have met a great literary happiness this season, by a writer who has already been rewarded by Prix Goncourt, Jérôme Ferrari (for "The Sermon on Fall of Rome, 2012"), which published a wonderful novel this year, "In his image". It's great when you are in a jury to have the proof that we are not wrong.

In a broader sense, if it had to be a book, what would it be?

A dictionary.

We are far from the novel …

Yes. But there is not only romance in life. The mine does not revolve around the Goncourt value. And the first book I read was Le Petit Larousse during the war.

Do you feel an increasingly important literary prize, like Goncourt?

Not really. This title is the most distinguished literary award for a long time. The word Goncourt is known in Spain, like the United States, Japan or China. It's a trademark and the main thing for us, as heirs, is to maintain its quality. I do not think, however, that the authors think of Goncourt when they write. They do it because they need it. The price time comes as soon as the book is completed.

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