If the undisputed number one in novel sales, Guillaume Musso, is now published at the start of the autumn literary season, the “middle” of the Goncourt and other prizes ignores him, as much as he carefully avoids frequenting him. Angelic, the author’s 20th novel, arrives in bookstores on Tuesday, September 20. The print run is 400,000 copies. “I have nothing against prices, really. But it’s not my thing, I’ve never written for it”responds to AFP Guillaume Musso, 48 years old.
A book appeared every year, like lily of the valley, without fail in the spring. It took exceptional circumstances for the favorite author of the French to shift to September: the Covid-19 pandemic. During the confinement of the first half of 2020, the writer turned into a home teacher for his son, in the CP class. The publication of The Stranger of the Seine was then delayed.
In 2021, all titles and formats combined, the novelist had sold nearly 1.3 million books. His next, Virginie Grimaldi, almost a third less. He has the success, he could claim recognition. Why not the prestigious fall awards? Amélie Nothomb, for example, has a fine track record: Grand Prix du roman de l’Académie française in 1999, Prix de Flore in 2007, Renaudot in 2021, not to mention that she was a Goncourt finalist in 2019.
Not so for Guillaume Musso. Its publisher, Calmann-Lévy, prefers to place a quote from the New York Times as a banner: “The French master of suspense”. Even if the critic of the American daily, Sarah Weinman, said to herself “baffled” by a turning point in the plot at the end of the novel Central Park.
The “master” can boast of having been crowned in Italy with the Raymond-Chandler 2021 prize. It is awarded to authors of noir novels for all of their work, during the Noir in festival, in Courmayeur. “It made me happy because it’s an international prize, which crowns a work. Margaret Atwood, John le Carré… A lot of people I love have had it”, he explains.
But the French prices? “I don’t have this desire to go in there: I have no contact with this small literary and Parisian milieu, it doesn’t make me want it, it doesn’t make me dream”, decides the author of Brooklyn Girl. “I have nothing against it, but it’s not my path. I don’t need them, they don’t need me”he concludes
The Prix Goncourt and its counterparts operate according to opaque rules, where publishers defend to the juries the titles to appear potentially to their liking. The general public will never know which ones.
Guillaume Musso met some of his usual readership on the evening of September 19 in the historic premises of Calmann-Lévy in Paris, the “happy few” invited to this “private event”. This public won over to his cause, who had not yet been able to read his last delivery, was stamping with impatience. The author explained that in Angeliche staged “for once” a disreputable protagonist, “one of those heroines that we love to hate, who will slide on the wrong side”. The very genre of the book, a thriller where the complex scenario and action take precedence over style, is not to Goncourt’s taste.
It took years before literary critics decided to take him seriously, rather than seeing him as a fad that would eventually pass. It has now been dominating the rankings for eleven years, with a fluctuating list of rivals. “I became popular without trying to be” says the novelist. “I occupy today the place that I dreamed of occupying when I was fifteen years old. It is priceless!”