Shunned by Goncourt, the December Prize decided to crown him. This Tuesday, October 31, the Canadian Kevin Lambert won the December prize with his novel Que notre joie reste, published in Nouvel Attila, becoming at 31 the youngest winner to win this coveted award in France for its strong endowment. He faced Neige Sinno, Laure Murat and Geneviève Damas.
With his novel, a fiction about the fall of an architect accused of chasing the poor from Montreal, published in Canada in September 2022, Kevin Lambert has aroused critical enthusiasm in France. But also the controversy. In September, his publisher revealed that the author had used the services of a Canadian-Haitian “sensitivity reader” to verify the extent to which a character of Haitian origin was credible.
A common practice in North America, but criticized in France. Nicolas Mathieu, winner of the 2018 Goncourt Prize, reacted strongly on Instagram, calling on writers to “work”, “take their risk”, “without supervision or police”. In an interview with Le Figaro, Kevin Lambert then replied: “Nicolas Mathieu has the right to disagree with the process. For my part, I believe neither in universal laws nor in absolutes in art. In a novel, we work with sensitive material, in movement, full of ambivalences, we are interested in the particular more than the general. You can benefit from specialized reading. [...] After this publication, we spoke via Instagram with Nicolas Mathieu. I believe that we each respect each other’s approach.”
The prize was created in 1989, under the name of the Novembre prize, to reward a novel forgotten by the other autumn literary prizes. But, this year, it comes before the other major prizes, such as the Femina, the Goncourt, the Renaudot and the Médicis. It is endowed with 15,000 euros, with the support of the Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent Foundation.