How a controversy can propel a novel. The Prix Médicis jury crowned the Canadian writer, Kevin Lambert, 31 years old, for his novel, Que notre joie remained, published by Le Nouvel Attila. He received 6 votes against 4 for Salma El Moumni for Adieu Tanger (Grasset). He is undoubtedly one of the youngest winners of this great fall prize. He had also received the Prix Décembre, and was on the first selection at Goncourt.
The book features Céline Wachowski, a famous architect who has contracts around the world as well as her series on Netflix. But a controversy arises on his new site. Accused of promoting gentrification and driving the poor out of Montreal, his working methods are firmly condemned. Fired from her own company, she begins a long journey through the desert which leads her to reflect on guilt.
Singularity of this novel, it had already been published in Canada in September 2022 and republished in France by the new Attila for this literary season.
It was believed that the controversy which followed the publication of the novel would put a stop to it. Quite the opposite happened. Recall of facts. In September, Kevin Lambert's publisher revealed that his author had used the services of a Canadian-Haitian “sensitivity reader” to verify the extent to which a character of Haitian origin was credible. Sensitivity readers are a kind of publishing advisor responsible for identifying and correcting sexist, racist or homophobic remarks in a manuscript that may have escaped the author's attention. This is a common practice in North America, but little used 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” by targeting Kevin Lambert, even if after the fact, Nicolas Mathieu had toned down his remarks. In an interview with Le Figaro, Kevin Lambert then responded: “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. We 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 controversy therefore did not prevent Kevin Lambert from winning multiple awards.
The Medici of the essay went to Laure Murat for Proust, family novel (Robert Laffont), a title which appeared on the Goncourt list. The Medici Prize for Foreign Novels: Han Kang, Impossible Farewells, translated from Korean (South Korea) by Kyungran Choi and Pierre Bisiou (Grasset)
Next week, it will be around Interallié and Goncourt high school students to choose their winner. Attention: Kevin Lambert is still on track for the Goncourt des lycéens...