Alan Riding files an article about “book award season” as he calls it–the Nobel, Booker, NBA–and asks who benefits from the prizes. The authors, sure, but mostly the publishers, who are eager to sell more copies, and who go to great lengths to court juries. Riding cites a new book by a French journalist, which alleges that prizes are nothing more than scams.
Guy Konopnicki, claims the Goncourt is the most blatant example of conflict of interest: he says that it bends to pressure from publishers (who nominate books for consideration) and that some jurors are themselves writers with close ties to leading publishers. Further, the jurors, appointed for life and in some cases in their eighties, are out of touch with public taste.
I doubt the problem is restricted to the Goncourt, and given the current trend, we can’t be too far from the Harveyization of publishing. Somewhere, a lowly assistant is probably working on putting together gift bags for jurors.