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Week in Review: November 13, 2020

by Erin Bronner

Chloé Delaume Wins Prix Médicis

On November 6, the Prix Médicis named Chloé Delaume’ Le Cœur synthétique (Synthetic Heart) (Seuil) as the winner of this year’s prize. The novel, a comedy, centers on Adélaïde, a forty-six-year-old press officer from Paris. Having recently divorced, she sets out to find true love while navigating a tumultuous dating scene. Delaume writes, “It is because it has aged so much, Adelaide's heart that is. It accepts reality, it knows how to protect itself. It doesn't want to bleed anymore, and much prefers itself empty. Adelaide's heart would like to be embalmed.” Delaume released an accompanying synth-pop album for Le Coeur Synthétique titled Les fabuleuses mésaventures d’une héroïne contemporaine. Marie Darrieussecq, novelist and president of the Médicis jury, praised the work for its humor and for "the ability of the novelist to "experiment with different forms in writing" with each novel she publishes. Previously, Delaume won the Prix Décembre in 2001 for Le Cri du sablier (Léo Scheer), a work of autofiction about a child whose father kills her mother right in front of her and then commits suicide. Last year, Delaume released Mes bien chères soeurs (Seuil), a fourth-wave feminist manifesto that encourages sisterhood as a tool of power.


Read and Tour Villa of Delirium

In a Design special report The New York Times discusses how the French Riviera Villa Kérylos served as a direct muse for the novel Villa of Delirium penned by Adrien Goetz (New Vessel Press, tr. Natasha Lehrer). Set in the early 1900s, Villa of Delirium centers on the Reinach family, who built a replica of a Greek palace in an attempt to replicate the “pure beauty” of classical antiquity. The Times describes the novel as blending “fictitious characters’ experiences at the Reinach estate with historically accurate descriptions of the building’s evolution and the occupants’ accomplishments and fates,” and notes that Goetz spent years researching the architecture of the villa and the history of the Reinach family. A 3D virtual tour of Villa Kérylos has been created, so that readers can explore the work of architecture referenced in Villa of Delirium. The panoramic image quality is quite impressive, and each room is accompanied by at least one descriptive paragraph to provide historical context. Adrian Goetz is an art history professor at the Sorbonne and editor of the quarterly magazine of the Louvre Museum, Grande Galerie.


Prix Goncourt Ceremony Postponed

In light of the closure of French bookstores during the second lockdown, the Prix Goncourt has decided to postpone its award ceremony, which was supposed to be handed out this Tuesday. The Académie Goncourt first announced its plans to postpone two weeks ago, after President Emmanuel Macron announced the closure of “non-essential” businesses. The Academy could not imagine awarding the prize while bookstores were closed and indefinitely postponed the ceremony in solidarity with the bookstores. It is certain that the award will be announced before Christmas, since selling the winning book during the holiday season represents a significant amount of revenue for bookstores. According to president of the Académie Goncourt Didier Decoin, the ‘deadline’ in mind for the ceremony is December 10, "To leave the government the possibility of reopening bookstores." It is predicted that the Prix Renaudot will also postpone their ceremony. Meanwhile, the Prix Médicis confirmed on Twitter the decision to maintain its schedule. Finally, the Prix Fémina was awarded on November 2 to Serge Joncour for Nature humaine (Flammarion).


French Bookstores Ordered to Close

Amidst the current COVID lockdown, French bookstores find themselves struggling for a second time this year after the government excluded bookstores from its list of essential businesses. Forbes reports that in addition to the closure of 3,000 independent bookstores, supermarkets were also required to fence off their book sections. An open letter to the government written by the Syndicat national de l’édition, Syndicat de la Librairie Française, and the Conseil Permanent des Écrivains is asking that bookstores be allowed to remain open: “Authors, illustrators, publishers, and booksellers are launching a solemn, united and responsible appeal to the government: leave our bookstores open so that social confinement is not also cultural isolation.” The New York Times also reports on the bookstores’ grievances while giant retailer Amazon has no restrictions and continues to sell books in France. Some officials have weighed in and discouraged their constituents from shopping on Amazon for this reason. Prime Minister Jean Castex said, “To the French I say, perhaps during this month of confinement, delay or postpone purchases rather than order them on a large foreign site,” and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said, “I’m really imploring Parisians: Do not buy on Amazon. Amazon is the death of our bookstores and our neighborhood life.”

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