The writer Philippe Claudel becomes the new president of the Académie Goncourt

The writer Philippe Claudel becomes the new president of the Académie Goncourt
The writer Philippe Claudel becomes the new president of the Académie Goncourt

The 62-year-old author, already secretary general, was the favorite in this election. After a close vote, he was elected Monday May 13 as president of the prestigious academy against Pierre Assouline.

Philippe Claudel, writer and director, becomes the new president of the Académie Goncourt and will hold this position for five years.

Philippe Claudel, writer and director, becomes the new president of the Académie Goncourt and will hold this position for five years. Photo Pascal Bastien / Divergence

By Télérama, with AFP

Published on May 14, 2024 at 11:19 a.m.

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LAcadémie Goncourt, which awards the most prestigious French literary prizes, changed president on Monday May 13, bringing writer Philippe Claudel at its head following a close election. The author of Gray souls, 62 years old, received five votes against four for another member of the Academy, Pierre Assouline. Both were candidates to succeed Didier Decoin, 79, who gave up 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 specified, some of its members intend 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 at it, explaining that the charge seemed to him “heavy”. 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 New Obs.

A turbulent presidency

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 will try to be a Democratic president, of whom the jurors can be proud. I announced a five-year mandate, at the end of which I will leave the presidency but also the Academy,” declared the new president Monday evening The Republican Eastthe daily newspaper of its region, Lorraine.

“Philippe Claudel is elected president by five votes to Pierre Assouline’s four,” detailed the Académie Goncourt in a press release. Only nine of the ten Goncourt jurors were able to vote because one of them, Paule Constant, 80 years old, left office. She “is now an honorary member”, indicated the Academy. 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. Camille Laurens was elected secretary. She retains her position as interim treasurer while she appoints a successor.

Furthermore, 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 The Anomaly. The last two saw the jurors clash head-on for 14 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 Live fast by Brigitte Giraud, in November 2022, then Watch over her 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 Kremlinthen to Éric Reinhardt for Sarah, Susanne and the writer.

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