Virtual but very real, the Goncourt to Hervé Le Tellier for “L’Anomalie”

The frontiers of reality have never been so sought after, in the world of literary prizes, as this fall, and until the choice of Goncourt, this year crowning a novel that plays with humor on the dimensions of space and time. The juries were forced to rub shoulders, health crisis requires, the new exercise of virtual proclamation. After the French academics, who presented their grand prize for the novel to Étienne de Montety on Thursday, November 26 via the Teams platform, it was the turn of the jurors of Goncourt (then of Renaudot) to make their announcement on Monday, November 30, via the platform Zoom video. The president of the jury, Didier Decoin, thus designated at 12:30 p.m. the happy 2020 winner: Hervé Le Tellier.

→ READ. Our review of “L’Anomalie”, by Hervé Le Tellier

A digital formula in all respects restful for the viewer. No rat race of journalists at Drouant, no packs of cameramen and photographers, no jurors nudged, no falls on the stairs or onlookers massed at Place Gaillon, for probably the first time in history price. So jurors and winner – each in front of the camera of their computer from their living room or office – were they able, with visible pleasure despite the “distance”, to talk about literature – for the first time in the history of the prize? Everyone said their joy and motivated their choice, Hervé Le Tellier giving details of the engines and springs in his book.

A game on the codes of the novel

The Anomaly (Ed. Gallimard) plays with the codes of the novel as much as with the limits of reality, with a plot that imagines the double landing in New York of an Air France plane with the same crew and the same passengers, each – and the whole world – soon being confronted with this duplication. The author is not president of the Oulipo for nothing, which the juror Pierre Assouline was amused to point out to him, recalling that his illustrious predecessor in this capacity, Raymond Queneau, was a member of Goncourt from 1951 .

“Do we really exist? Can we trust our senses? “: Hervé Le Tellier indicated that he had asked himself these two questions as a starting point for writing his novel, two years ago, confirming a work “On the genre, and the desire for several writings associated with each character” in order to characterize them, and to have wished to write “A style of noir novel a bit à la Jean-Patrick Manchette, with what made the strength of the noir novel in the 1970s”.

Multiple mise en abyme

Hervé Le Tellier juxtaposes the trajectory of several strangers – the passengers of the plane – apparently distant from each other, and whose forced or accidental reunion the reader can guess, which will not however be the climax of his intrigue. An irony runs through the imagined story, in which some may see a form of cynicism (with regard to beliefs in particular), which the author defended during the exchange with the jury.

Put in abyme, again, in the choice of one of the characters, Victor Miesel, a writer himself, a great reader of the Qohelet whose invigorating message he nevertheless somewhat diverted to retain an anesthetic fatality. This character is himself the author of the novel The Anomaly, an exergue of which appears at the beginning of Le Tellier’s novel (“The true pessimist knows that it is already too late to be”), and whose dark phantom hovers until the end in another increasingly dizzying mise en abyme.

PORTRAIT. Didier Decoin, president of the Académie Goncourt, acoquined by curiosities

“We experienced a strange Goncourt”, said Didier Decoin, explaining that he never considered canceling it, but dreamed “Of a papal version in which we would have appeared at the windows of the Drouant restaurant for an urbi et orbi announcement, to the city and the world. Keep for 2021 “. This prize awarded the day after the reopening of businesses, and whose announcement had been suspended precisely during the re-containment and the closure of bookstores, is timely for the sector. The jurors present agreed on the positive character of the work; ” it’s a a book that makes you happy, a joy to read, and this is not so often ”, rejoiced Didier Decoin. “We live in a gloomy time, and it will delight many people”, stressed Tahar Ben Jelloun. And Didier Decoin concluded in the form of an invitation: “ Since we can’t go to a restaurant, let’s go to the bookstore to stock up on books!


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