Nobel prize winner's book turned down by 19 publishers

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The Palace book cover. (Image via Goodreads)
The Palace book cover. (Image via Goodreads)

Paris - The French writer Claude Simon, who won the Nobel prize for literature in 1985, would not be published today, according to an experiment conducted by one of his fans.

Writer Serge Volle sent 50 pages of Simon's 1962 novel, The Palace, set during the Spanish Civil War, to 19 French publishers.

The verdict was damning: Twelve rejected it and seven didn't even bother to reply.

One editor said that the book's "endlessly long sentences completely lose the reader", Volle told French public radio on Monday.

Nor did the book have "a real plot with well-drawn characters", the rejection letter added.

Simon, one of the fathers of the "nouveau roman", was notorious for his meandering prose, with sentences often going on for pages in his masterpiece The Georgics (1981).

The philistinism of modern publishing

Volle, 70, claimed the refusals showed the philistinism of modern publishing, which was "abandoning literary works that are not easy to read or that will not set sales records".

Paraphrasing Marcel Proust, he said that you have to be already "famous" to be published.

"We are living in the era of the throwaway book," he declared.

Volle refused to say who he had sent the extract to, but a number of major French publishers also rejected The Georgics four years before it helped Simon win the Nobel.

The Palace was one of Simon's most controversial works, seen by many critics as a thinly-veiled attack on George Orwell, the British author of Animal Farm and Homage to Catalonia, who like Simon had fought on the Republican side of the Spanish civil war in the 1930s.

The same year that Simon won the Nobel he claimed Orwell's account of his time fighting with the anarchists in Homage to Catalonia was "faked from the very first sentence".

The British critic Christopher Hitchens later lambasted Simon, who died in 2005, for fighting for the "Stalinists" in Spain, who turned their guns on the anarchists as the war wore on.

"The award of the Nobel prize to such a shady literary enterprise is a minor scandal," he added, "reflecting the intellectual rot which had been spread by pseudo intellectuals".

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