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Prix Goncourt: 'no conflict of interest' concerning writer Camille Laurens says Academy president

Camille Laurens (R) with Pascal Bruckner pose before a Goncourt literacy price judges meeting at the Drouant restaurant in Paris, March 2020
Camille Laurens (R) with Pascal Bruckner pose before a Goncourt literacy price judges meeting at the Drouant restaurant in Paris, March 2020 Copyright LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP or licensors
Copyright LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP or licensors
By Jez Fielder with AFP
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Didier Decoin says everything is above board but isn't keen on writer and judge Laurens' critical timing.


The jury of France's premier literary prize, the Prix Goncourt, denied any conflict of interest on Wednesday after revelations from radio network France Inter implied that one of the jurors is in a relationship with a longlisted author.

The book concerned is "The Children of Cadillac", an account by the philosopher and essayist François Noudelmann of the life of his grandfather and his father through the two world wars.

"This one is the companion of one of the jurors, the novelist Camille Laurens", writes France Inter on its website.

Asked by the network, Goncourt Academy president, Didier Decoin, explained that the jury was aware. “Yes, they are together. We felt that was not a reason to penalise a good book,” he said.

The secretary of the Academy, Philippe Claudel, told AFP that the usual rules in this case had been strictly followed.

"There was a majority of us who had appreciated this book, and who discovered after the fact that there was a link between François Noudelmann and Camille Laurens, about whom she was questioned", he recounts.

"There was a vote to say that yes, we could include the book, that it was not an ethical or deontological problem, which would be the case if it came from a spouse or descendant. And he gathered a majority which allowed him to be in the selection. For the Academy, the conflict of interest has been ruled out," he confirmed.

France Inter raises another potential conflict of interest: a severe criticism by Camille Laurens in the newspaper Le Monde of Anne Berest's "La Carte Postale", on September 16, eight days after the publication of the first list of Goncourt upon which this novel appeared.

The custom is that the jurors of Goncourt do not express themselves publicly on the books in the running, and remain in solidarity with the choices of the Academy in all circumstances.

"I didn't like it at all. And we'll talk about it," Decoin told France Inter.

"I think the subject needs to be addressed officially. At the next meeting, I would be in favour of having it written down, if not in our rules, at least in our oral rules: when one of us has a platform in the press, whatever it is, he refrains from speaking about a book which is in the selections ", added Mr. Claudel.

The Goncourt jury, which has ten members, awards its annual prize on November 3.

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