French publishers in the target of sensitivity readers

NARRATIVE – The Kevin Lambert-Nicolas Mathieu affair continues to divide the literary world. New “thought cops” are leading to extreme surveillance and caution practices in the French publishing world.

On September 4, a French publisher Le Nouvel Attila published an Instagram post in which its author, the Quebecois Kevin Lambertpresent in the first Goncourt list, explained that he had called on a sensitivity reader. Behind this word, hides an employee of a publishing house responsible for combing through a text to defuse any word or phrase that could offend the reader: we imagine that these are the annotations relating to physique, race, orientation or religion which are the subject of the attention of “sensitivity readers”.

Kevin Lambert justified himself by explaining that he wanted to ensure that he did not “did not fall into certain traps of the representation of black people by white authors” (sic). He added that “sensitive reading, contrary to what reactionaries say, is not censorship”. With this admission, a first in literature, Nicolas Mathieu, Goncourt 2018, reactedcalling on writers to “work”, “take your risk”, “without supervision or police”.

“It’s a stupid controversy, waved off the president of the Goncourt jury, Didier Decoin. When you are an author, you have the right to call on anyone you want to proofread a text. » Just another way to put out the fire. Yes, but the matter is serious. First, because sensitivity readers are not simple readers; their expertise is not literary but moral. “It’s bad faith to make people believe that monitoring their text is natural. They are thought cops”berates an editor. “They p the texts through the sieve of an ideology to stick to their reading grid of the world, it’s astonishing!”, is offended by another. The Decoin canadairs are in vain, because the question has already been agitating the edition for some time.

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