For starters, what can you say about this year's winner of the Goncourt Award, Nicolas Mathieu and his novel "Their children after them"?
We are in the tradition of Edmond de Goncourt, that is, the crowning of the fictional work of a young author (Nicolas Mathieu is 40 years old), who writes in a certain style a bit new. This is a social novel about young people written in the language of young people, as it was a few years ago, since the book ends at the World Cup in 1998. an exciting book, moving, telling about all the troubles, misfortunes, bliss, a generation that is trying to find a way, and which, unfortunately, too often is forced to get stuck in its predecessors.
Is this a book that is easy to win for other years?
He won in the fourth round of voting, so finally quite easily, by 6 votes for 4. I would say it's a very classic vote.
How is the election going?
The voices are given away verbally. The secretary selects the order of the jury so that those who vote last will adapt according to the votes of others. There is a new lottery in every vote. This year 4 votes were cast in favor of Nicolas Mathieu, 4 votes for Paul Greveillac and 2 votes for the third author. In the second round it was 4-4-1-1 and then again 4-4-2 in the third, so in the end the last two voices conquered Nicolas Mathieu at the expense of Paul Greveillac and his novel "Masters and Slaves", David Diop also received votes .
How many books are there in the race at the start?
I would say that there are about 150 books in the Goncourt race. Each of ten members read about fifty. We spend our summer holidays, June-July-August, to read everything. Which requires a bit of generosity for the members of the Goncourt Academy, because while we read others, we do not work for ourselves. But it's nice to say that today (the interview took place on Wednesday, Goncourt award date, ed.), We are lucky and the fame of a well-deserved young author. We are rewarded for these efforts.
What are your reading habits during these intense periods?
It is very changeable. For example, it depends on whether it is raining or not, whether I have a family with me or not, whether I am in shape or traveling. The good thing is that I can read anywhere, anytime. When I take the train, of course, I read, but I can also read the car next to the driver. On the other hand, I do not read on the beach or by the pool. I still have to sit well and take out my pen.
50 pounds in three months, this book every two days, is intense!
There are also books that run without completing them. I can stop very well after 30 or 40 pages, when I feel that I'm wasting my time.
Do you have a specific methodology?
Everyone does what he wants at 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 I often connect with authors who are a bit more familiar, which we know are the favorites of prices. But I change: sometimes I start with big books, then small books. There is really no method. This is in line with the mood of the moment.
You have been president of the Goncourt academy since 2004, when you integrated it, is there a novel that has made you more than others in this period?
Many love me very much. "Benevolent" Jonathan Littell, Goncourt's price from 2006, is part of the "Sweet song" by Leili Slimani, the winner in 2016. "Farewell there", Pierre Lemaitre (Goncourt 2013, ed) also marked. I would also like to emphasize that I experienced great literary luck this season, from the author of the Prix Goncourt, Jérôme Ferrari (for "The Sermon on Rome Fall" in 2012, Ed.), Which published a great novel this year "On image". It's great when you're in the jury to have proof that we were not wrong.
In a broader sense, if you had to be a book, what would it be?
Far from the novel …
Yes. But in life there is not only romance. Mine is not around Goncourt. And the first book I read was Le Petit Larousse during the war.
Do you feel the importance of increasingly important literary prizes, such as Goncourt?
Not exactly. This title is the most prestigious literary prize for a long time. The word Goncourt is as well known in Spain as in the United States, Japan or China. It's a brand, and the main thing for us as heirs is to maintain its quality. I do not think writers think about Goncourt when they write. They do it because they need it. The price of the price comes after completing the book.