Monday, January 17

Culture. What does the vintage for the literary winter season have in store?

This is the highest number since 2015: 545 novels will populate the literary winter return from this Wednesday, according to the count of the magazine Livres Hebdo. Among them, there are 385 French novels, a record there too since 2013.

Why such a high number? According to a literary tradition (or a superstition), to publish the presidential election years in the spring amounts to taking a big risk (often little paying). It would therefore be safer to do so in January or February, before politics monopolizes the news. Which, this year, will be done very early, the presidential election taking place on Sundays April 10 and 24 …

Another explanation: when the book is going well, there is a great temptation for publishers to take advantage of it. So to publish a lot. “Compared to 2020, the return to bookstores has been extremely powerful. And if we look at the figures compared to 2019, that is to say before the pandemic, the growth this year [en 2021] is around 19% ”, noted in December on Franceinfo the president of the National Syndicate of the edition Vincent Montagne.

Headliners and others awarded

The booksellers will therefore receive huge quantities of different books in a few weeks. And they are sure: only a small part will find a large readership. Some will get by and a good part will soon be forgotten.

While some will find it difficult to get out of the game, others are already sure to occupy a prominent place. Like this novel with the immaculate white cover, “To annihilate”, the last by Michel Houellebecq (published by Flammarion). It comes out this Friday in 300,000 copies and has already benefited from extensive media coverage.

But Michel Houellebecq has for competitors multiple winners, like him, of the Goncourt Prize in the years 2010. This goes from Eric Vuillard (“An honorable exit”, Actes Sud, this Wednesday January 5), who denounces the Indochinese colonial capitalism, to Leïla Slimani (“Look at us dancing”, Gallimard, February 3, continuation of “Pays des autres”), via Pierre Lemaitre (“Le Grand Monde”, Calmann Lévy, January 25) and Nicolas Mathieu (“Connemara” , Actes Sud, February 2).

Other headliners: Frédéric Beigbeder (“Un barrage contre l’Atlantique”, Grasset, January 5), Philippe Besson (“Paris-Briançon”, Julliard, January 6), David Foenkinos (“Number two”, Gallimard, 6 January) or Pascal Quignard (“L’Amour la mer”, idem).

Original courses, reviews … and the Covid

Among the authors of early novels, there are also original paths. Maruska Le Moing (“Love each other”, Gallimard, January 13) studied in business school before becoming an opera singer. Tom Charbit (“Les Sirènes d’Es Vedrá”, Seuil, January 7) taught political science and then retrained as a ceramist.

Novelists also portray the faults of their milieu: Eric Neuhoff in, precisely, the creaking “Rentrée littéraire” (Albin Michel, January 7), and Geneviève Brisac in “Les Enchanteurs” (L’Olivier, January 7).

In this “Molière year”, André Versaille imagines the diary of his partner Armande Béjard (“Armande ou le Chagrin de Molière”, Presses de la Cité, January 6).

And in the midst of the resurgence of Covid-19, Laurence Tardieu evokes the leukemia of a child during confinement (“From one dawn to another”, Stock, January 5).

Among foreigners, the Japanese Haruki Murakami will publish twice on January 20 (at Belfond): short stories (“First person singular”) and illustrated memories of his father (“Abandon a cat”). The Albanian Ismail Kadaré resuscitates Stalin and the writer Boris Pasternak (“Disputes at the top”, Fayard, January 5).

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