Philippe Claudel elected new president of the Goncourt academy

The Goncourt Academy, which awards the most prestigious French literary prizes, changed president on Monday May 13, bringing writer Philippe Claudel to its helm following a close election

Philippe Claudel elected new president of the Goncourt academy

The Goncourt Academy, which awards the most prestigious French literary prizes, changed president on Monday May 13, bringing writer Philippe Claudel to its helm following a close election. The author of Gray Souls, 62, received five votes against four for another member of the academy Pierre Assouline.

Both were candidates to succeed Didier Decoin, 79, who was relinquishing the position after having held it for four years. Mr. Decoin himself succeeded Bernard Pivot in January 2020, who died on May 6.

The academy had not notified that it was replacing its office on Monday evening, even though it traditionally meets on Tuesday. But, she clarified, some of its members plan to go to the funeral of Mr. Pivot, scheduled for the afternoon in Quincié-en-Beaujolais (Rhône). We also did not know with certainty that Mr. Decoin, winner of the 1977 Goncourt Prize, was going to cede the presidency. He had only hinted as much, explaining that the load seemed “heavy” to him.

In October, he confirmed what many knew, that two jurors were interested in the position. “Claudel wants it, Assouline too, but I don’t have the impression that they want to bite for it,” he said to Nouvel Obs.

He will leave the academy at the end of his five-year term

Philippe Claudel seemed the favorite of this upcoming duel because he held the position of secretary general, which made him Mr. Decoin's natural heir apparent. “I’m going to try to be a Democratic president that the jurors can be proud of. I announced a five-year mandate, at the end of which I will leave the presidency but also the academy,” the new president declared Monday evening to L’Est Republican, the daily newspaper of his region, Lorraine.

Only nine of the ten Goncourt jurors were able to vote on Monday because one of them, Paule Constant, 80, left office. She “is now an honorary member,” the academy said.

The four Goncourt Prizes chaired by Mr. Decoin gave rise to a rather eventful history. The first, in 2020, postponed by several weeks to the end of November, was given behind closed doors, due to the Covid-2019 pandemic, to Hervé Le Tellier for L'Anomalie.

The last two saw the jurors clash head-on for fourteen rounds, with five votes to five. The regulations provide in this case that the president's vote counts double in the last round, which made it possible to crown Vivre vite by Brigitte Giraud, in November 2022, then Veiller sur elle by Jean-Baptiste Andrea, in November 2023. Both times , Pierre Assouline was in the camp of the disappointed, those who would have preferred to award the Goncourt prize to Giuliano da Empoli for The Mage of the Kremlin, then to Eric Reinhardt for Sarah, Susanne and the writer.

Camille Laurens was elected secretary. She retains her position as interim treasurer while she appoints a successor. The withdrawal of Ms. Constant frees up “coverage” within the academy, as jury places are designated. It meets every month in Paris, at the Drouant restaurant, the place where the prize has been awarded since 1914, with the exception of the 2020 edition. It will therefore be necessary to find a new juror.

The Goncourt prize only allows you to win a check for ten euros. But it guarantees its winner sales of hundreds of thousands of copies of their novel.