France’s culture minister is playing peacemaker in a row over free speech and the winner of the country’s most prestigious literary award.
In an interview with an arts magazine three months ago, Marie Ndiaye, said she had left France with her family for Berlin mostly because of President Nicolas Sarkozy, adding that there is a “climate of heavy policing that’s vulgar and detestable.”
Since winning the Goncourt Prize, Ndiaye has stood by her remarks, something which has proved too much for Eric Raoult – a prominent member of Sarkozy’s conservative party.
“When one describes Sarkozy’s France as monstruous and the right-wing as death it’s very serious. Freedom of expression isn’t freedom of aggression,” he said.
But the Goncourt jury has defended Ndiaye, stating that its laureates are not duty-bound to respect the state and its leader.
Bernard Pivot, who sits on the award’s jury panel, says: “Writers aren’t obliged now and never have been bound by any rules and in a democratic country, they never will be.”
Meanwhile, Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand has indicated he will not be pulled into the affair.
“Writers who are awarded the Goncourt Prize have a right to say what they want,” he said, adding that the same applied to Raoult.
“This concerns me as a citizen. This doesn’t conern me as a minister.”