Did Brigitte Giraud benefit from the "Goncourt effect"?
Two months after receiving her prize and while the end-of-year celebrations have passed by, it seems that
, the author's thirteenth novel, is not meeting the expected success in bookstores.
According to the statements of the GfK institute, which carries out studies on the best sales in the field of culture, this novel on mourning would have passed only 198,000 copies.
A significant figure, but much lower than the sales made by his two predecessors, the Senegalese writer Mohammed Bougar Sarr, and the Oulipien Hervé Le Tellier.
The most secret memory of men
, winner 2021, was the fifth best-selling book of the year, with more than 375,000 copies sold.
Crowned during the Covid pandemic, Le Tellier's
had sold more than 440,000 copies.
doesn't really sell like a Goncourt"
, observes Flora, manager of the Flora Lit bookshop, in the fourteenth arrondissement of Paris.
"It sells well in absolute terms, but didn't work particularly well during the holidays
," notes the bookseller, who has been in business since last August.
Curiously, the book, which meets its public - it is one of the ten best sales of the establishment -, does not sell better since it was crowned with the most prestigious of the French literary prizes.
The observation is the same on the side of Nicolas, deputy director of the bookstore Les Cahiers de Colette, located in the fourth arrondissement of Paris.
"For comparison, it sells four times less than last year's Goncourt"
, he observes.
“A difficult subject”
The mixed commercial performance of the book - it is estimated that a Goncourt sells 350,000 copies on average - could be explained by its theme.
, Brigitte Giraud tells the story of the mourning of her husband, who died in a motorcycle accident, when they had just signed to buy a new house.
In this very intimate story, written in the first person, the author spells out a series of "ifs" that could have avoided the accident.
A difficult subject, which makes it a more difficult book to read or to offer for the holidays.
For Nicolas, the theme of the story does not allow it to be compared with the quest and fantasy stories of his predecessors:
“It's an intimate novel, written by an author who was already known, without being completely identified by the general public.
We can compare its sales with an
, awarded by the Goncourt in 2007], closer in its themes.
The economic situation could also explain the lesser importance of Goncourt this year.
After two years of pandemic, 2022 is that of the resumption of normal life.
As a result, readers have had less time to devote to the various works that have flourished in bookstores since the start of the literary season.
“We have been selling tremendously well for two years with this sword of Damocles from Covid hanging over our heads.
Ultimately, the years 2020 and 2021 were special.
This Goncourt by Brigitte Giraud rather makes us find the voting levels before the Covid”
, analyzes Nicolas.
The controversy surrounding the awarding of the prize to this book has also complicated his career.
Brigitte Giraud is crowned Goncourt by the academy after a difficult vote.
The jury must organize fourteen rounds of voting, before awarding the prize to him rather than to the Italian Giuliano Da Empoli, author of The
Mage of the Kremlin
The novel, written as an investigation into Russian power, benefits from a "news effect", with the war in Ukraine and the sudden questions surrounding the governance of Vladimir Putin.
The novel, released in the spring, is already selling very well.
Brigitte Giraud was chosen in the 14th ballot, with 5 votes against 5 votes for Giuliano da Empoli, the voice of the president, Didier Decoin, counting double.
Rare fact, some jurors, opposed to this attribution, opened up about it openly in the press.
“I'm really angry, because we made a big mistake.
The Magus of the Kremlin
is a great book that sheds light on the era.
And there, we stopped at a book which is not bad, I have nothing against Brigitte Giraud.
But it's a small book, there is no writing”
had lambasted Tahar Ben Jelloun, when the prize was awarded.
In the end, even without the Goncourt prize - the novel was nevertheless crowned with the prize of the French Academy - it is
Le Mage du Kremlin
which prances at the top of the sales.
"I sold twice as much as Goncourt"
, admits Flora.
A few kilometers away, in the Comme un roman bookstore, the numbers speak for themselves.
“Since September, I have sold 187 books by Brigitte Giraud, against 417 by Giuliano Da Empoli
,” explains Clara, bookseller.
For her, from a commercial point of view, it is as if the Italian had won the prize.