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Week in Review: December 13, 2020

by Erin Bronner

Prix Goncourt, Renaudot, Décembre, Vendredi Winners Announced

On November 30, the Academie Goncourt awarded their annual literary prize over Zoom, to Hervé Le Tellier for his  L'Anomalie (Gallimard). In the novel characters from around the world and drastically different walks of life encounter duplicates of themselves from alternate realities. Of this futuristic science-fiction thriller, Le Monde writes, “Making the characters waltz without the reader ever getting lost mixing suspense, humor and melancholy,  the Goncourt  crowns theambitious and addictive text of an author in full mastery of his art.” The same day, in the same video conference, the Prix Renaudot was awarded to Marie-Hélène Lafon for Histoire du fils (Buchet-Chastel). The narrative spans from 1908 to 2008 and details the life of André, a boy raised by his aunt who never meets his father. Le Monde writes, “Swollen with silences, it is a novel of loneliness, absence, heritage and love.” On December 1, Grégory Le Floch won the Prix Décembre for De parcourir le monde et d'y rôder (Bourgois). In this novel, which previously won the Prix Wepler and the Prix Transfuge découverte, the protagonist discovers a mysterious, oval-shaped object  which transports him all over the world. Vincent Mondiot won the Prix Vendredi, deemed the ““Goncourt” of youth literature” by Livres Hebdo, for his novel Les derniers des branleurs (Actes Sud Junior). The official Vendredi website describes the text as such: “In an inventive form, and a precise and insolent writing, the novel never ceases to surprise. [...] The refusals and disillusionments of adolescence are treated without complacency, with an unmistakable humor.”

Deep Vellum Acquires Dalkey Archive

Deep Vellum Publishing, a nonprofit publishing organization based in Dallas, TX known for its translated literature, has acquired Dalkey Archive Press, a firm based in Champaign, IL, according to Publishers Weekly. Named after the novel The Dalkey Archive by Flann O’Brien, it was founded by John O’Brien, whom a recent statement by Deep Vellum refers to as “dedicated to producing, promoting, and keeping in print, experimental works of international literature.” It became one of the largest publishers of international literature in the United States, publishing the works of renowned authors including Gertude Stein, Édouard Levé, and Louis-Ferdinand Céline. In 2015, O’Brien was appointed Chevalier in the Ordre des Arts & des Lettres by the Minister of Culture and Communication of France, “in recognition of his significant contribution to French arts and literature.” The news of the merger followed the news of John O’Brien’s passing . Will Evans of Deep Vellum and Chad W. Post of Open Letter Books will preside over Dalkey Archive following the merger. Will O’Brien, John O’Brien’s son, will join Deep Vellum’s board of directors.

Famous Paris Bookstore Gibert Jeune Closes

Le Point and Le Parisien report that the bookstore Gibert Jeune, located in the Latin Quarter among 133 publishing houses and other bookstores, will close its operations by the end of March 2021. Its building was sold to an anonymous investor. The reasons for the closing parallel the earlier decision of book retailer and sister company Gibert Joseph’s decision to liquidate three of its stores at the end of the first quarantine: “the contraction of the cultural goods market, changes in consumption habits and the recent 2019- 2020 events (transport strikes, demonstrations of yellow vests and the recent health crisis).” In 2018, Gibert Joseph absorbed Gibert Jeune after ninety years of rivalry. Florence Berthout, mayorof the 5th arrondissement said of the closing, “It's a huge sadness. It was a strong symbol of access to books for all budgets. ” The bookstore was especially popular among students for its sale of second-hand textbooks at a convenient price. A recent Financial Times article about Gibert Jeune also focuses on its closing as an indicator of the transformation of the commercial real estate market in Paris, as customers choose e-commerce over brick and mortar, and stores can no longer afford their leases.

Sotheby’s to Auction 297 Simone de Beauvoir Letters

From December 8 to 15, Sotheby’s will hold an auction for a series of letters exchanged between Simone de Beauvoir and her protegee, feminist author Violette Leduc. The letters total to 297 and span from 1945 to Leduc’s death in 1972. In a 2016 article memorializing Leduc, The Guardian notes Leduc as an underrated figure in erotic and avant-garde writing (compared to contemporaries such as Jean Genet) and chronicles her relationship with de Beauvoir. After de Beauvoir declines Leduc’s advances on account of her existing partnership with Jean-Paul Sartre, she nevertheless mentors Leduc,encourages her to write her first novel and often offers words of praise: ”You are an intellectual because you write”. Leduc’s upbringing in poverty contrasted de Beauvoir’s bourgeois academic cultivation: Leduc’s “feminist education came not from books or cafe chats but from her mother’s exhortations at the breakfast table.” The auction of their letters follows a wave of renewed interest in de Beauvoir’s life,. Les Editions de l'Herne have recently published her never before released novel Les Inséparables, and Flammarion just published the biography Devenir Beauvoir. La force de la volonté by Kate Kirkpatrick. It is worth noting that this is not the first time de Beauvoir’s letters have been sold: in 2018, Yale University bought 112 letters exchanged between her and Sartre.