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Quebec author Kevin Lambert dropped from contention for French literary prize

Quebec author Kevin Lambert is shown in a handout. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Julia Marois Quebec author Kevin Lambert is shown in a handout. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Julia Marois

Quebec author Kevin Lambert has been dropped from contention for the prestigious French Prix Goncourt.

The Saguenay, Que., author didn't make the cut when the literary prize's selection committee narrowed its list of finalists from 16 to eight.

Lambert's novel "Que notre joie demeure" was named on Sept. 5 to the long list of nominees for the prize, which will be awarded in November.

Published last year, the book includes detailed discussions on architecture, and centres on the excesses of the ruling class and gentrification in Montreal.

According to numbers from book promotion group BTLF, sales nearly doubled in recent months after the novel sparked an online quarrel between the author and Quebec Premier François Legault.

Legault published a short review praising the book on social media but was rebuked by Lambert, who accused the premier of failing to understand the novel's message.

Lambert found himself at the centre of a debate in France after he enlisted what is known as a sensitivity reader to review the manuscript of the novel.

He announced Sept. 4 on social media that he consulted a sensitivity reader to scrutinize his depiction of a character of Haitian descent, to make sure "I didn't say too many stupid things, that I didn't fall into certain traps in the representation of Black people by white authors."

In France, the practice of hiring someone to screen for offensive content is unfamiliar. The debate sprang from a critical Instagram post by 2018 Prix Goncourt winner Nicolas Mathieu, who wrote he was wary of the influence of "professionals of sensitivities, experts of stereotypes, specialists of what is accepted'' over writers' work.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 3, 2023. Top Stories


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