Un bon goncourt

As he notes the sales shooting from 20,000 pre-prize to 300,000 post-prize, Pierre Assouline declares Atiq Rahimi’s Syngué sabour “a good Goncourt.” If a prize spurs a big leap in sales, then it is doing a big part of its job. But not all of it. Alone, it would make DBC Pierre a good Booker. Which it isn’t. Prizes also reward work that a philistine culture doesn’t appreciate. The problem with the DBC Pierre pick is that it conferred snob status on a junk artifact. This was a bon Goncourt both because the book is bon and for the French elite conferring snob status on an explicitly ethnic work. Don’t forget this is a nation where snob status is as powerful as celebrity status in the U.K. and U.S. A new hot word in French publishing circles: “bibliodiversité.”

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