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The prison administration had invited journalists to the debates in the Paris region. And for those accustomed to autumn grands prix like Goncourt, it was a culture shock.
France Télévisions – Culture Editorial
Published on 04/12/2023 18:29
Reading time: 3 min Inside the Rouen remand center where discussions between inmates took place on November 20, 2023, with in particular the writer Emilie Frèche as part of the Goncourt des inmates. (MARTIN ROCHE / MAXPPP)
“Bulky style“, author who “don’t be a jerk“, “very annoying book“, or simply not read: for the jurors of the Goncourt prize for prisoners, frankness and transparency were the rule during deliberations open to the press on Monday, December 4. For regulars of the major literary prizes, this difference in tone contrasts with the alcoves from Drouant, Café de Flore or Brasserie Lipp.
“I had trouble reading it. At first, I forced myself a little (…) There are a lot of complicated words“, explained a juror taken from the Fresnes penitentiary center to deliberate in the Oval room of the National Library of France in Paris. But, he continued on the subject of Cross and ashes by Antoine Sénanque, whose plot takes place in the 14th century, “it’s an adventure novel like when I was young, you had to go to page 32 to continue the story“. While the jurors of literary prizes are usually bound by the secrecy of the deliberations, the Goncourt of prisoners has chosen to open its doors.
But the confinement of its jurors remains visible. Two of them stayed at La Santé, less than four kilometers away. Two others, at the Villepinte remand center, intervene by videoconference from a cramped room without windows, in which their “fellow readers“, as they are called, recognize”a parlor“. They defend with conviction Unforgettable suite, the novel by Akira Mizubayashi, Japanese who writes in French, which he learned after he turned 18. The author came to defend him in this Seine-Saint-Denis prison. “He’s really a great man. He told us how he learned the French language. He speaks it better than me who was born in France! (…) There is everything in this book. There is love, passion, suspense“, says a juror.
On October 25, 2023, the Goncourt Prize for prisoners will be held at the Bonneville remand center in Haute-Savoie. “Unforgettable Suite”, the novel by Akira Mizubayashi, is one of the books discussed in the reading workshop in the remand prison library. (GREGORY YETCHMENIZA / MAXPPP)
The Goncourt of the Prisoners, of which this is the second edition, is played between the 16 novels competing for the Goncourt prize, according to the list published by the “real” jury at the beginning of September. It is financially supported by the National Book Center. This Goncourt Prize was awarded at the beginning of November to Jean-Baptiste Andrea for Watch over her. The detainees’ Goncourt will be handed over on December 14.
“It almost collapsed”
He allowed the novelist Dorothée Janin to enter Fresnes prison. This is where his novel takes place, Rebellion of the Lost Girls, which evokes a mutiny of women in 1947. But it did little to convince this overwhelmingly male jury, like the prison population. Other titles have been strongly divided, such as Shipwreck by Vincent Delecroix, on the deaths of migrants in the Channel. “It almost got stuck in Fleury-Mérogis“, reported to AFP Dominique Pipard-Thavez, president of the association Lire c’est vivre, who attended the debates. “For me, this book was very embarrassing because it takes real facts, and adds others that are not real, in a case that is still ongoing“, publicly estimated a juror from this prison.
The Canadian Kevin Lambert, for May our joy remain (December and Medici prizes), aroused rejection or enthusiasm. Since Bois-d’Arcy, we regretted an inaugural scene “too long“At La Santé, where the Quebecer went, we loved it.”this novel about the complexity of the human being“.
sad tiger, by Neige Sinno, suffered from unease in the face of this story of rape. “The book is very trashy. It’s complicated in prison. Many did not want to go beyond the first 15 pages“, said an inmate from the Osny-Pontoise remand center that AFP was able to interview. He, like many others, loved Ideal Conditions by Mokhtar Amoudi, about a child from the Parisian suburbs who gets caught up in bad company. “I managed to defend him. It’s good to see that even in prison, we serve a purpose“.
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