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If It’s Fiction, Can It Be an Invasion of Privacy?

According to Laurent Demanze, a professor of contemporary literature at the Université Grenoble Alpes, the narrative void created by the cuts is also in keeping with Carrère’s style. “His books often start and stop, they’re composed of a succession of unfinished attempts,” he says. “He then lends continuity to that, with deliberate cracks.”

Devynck and Carrère kept mum about their dispute when “Yoga” came out in August, but rumors soon circulated in France’s small, clubby literary community. Raphaëlle Leyris, a writer and editor for Le Monde des livres, the books supplement of the newspaper Le Monde, attributed the controversy in part to a “love of gossip” among the French cultural elite.

“I understand why Hélène Devynck chose to react when untruths were being said and printed,” Leyris said.

Devynck first disclosed the agreement in the French edition of Vanity Fair in late September. “Yoga,” which had been longlisted for two major literary prizes, the Goncourt and the Medicis, was not on either shortlist when they were announced in October. The Goncourt ultimately went to Hervé Le Tellier, and the Medicis to Chloé Delaume.

“To me, there was a desire to sabotage the book,” the French book critic Nelly Kaprièlian, who works for the magazine Les Inrockuptibles, said of Devynck’s decision to come forward. “It’s a way of saying, ‘He is manipulating you, readers, the way he manipulated me.’”

Yet both Leyris and Kaprièlian believe there are other reasons that “Yoga” didn’t win top honors this year. “It is already a huge best seller, so you could argue that it no longer needs a prize,” Kaprièlian said. Leyris pointed to the role of prizes, which can alter the commercial fate of less popular releases, in helping bookshops stay afloat, especially during a pandemic.

For Devynck, the agreement was a way to break free of her status as muse and supporter. “While we were together, I read and edited his manuscripts, and our conversations and our life fed into them. It was invisible and free work, of course,” she said. (In a written response, Carrère described Devynck as “a kind and attentive reader, to whom I’ve often paid tribute.”)

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