those writers who never managed to be elected

The writers Frédéric Beigbeder and Benoît Duteurtre clash Thursday, November 3 in an uncertain election to the French Academy. Both covet armchair 19, previously occupied by Jean-Loup Dabadie, but also Nicolas Boileau, François-René de Chateaubriand, Paul Deschanel or René Clair.

It is in the afternoon that the 35 “immortals” (six women and 29 men) will have to choose between nine candidates, two of whom are favorites and seven others have no chance. Benoît Duteurtre, 62, declared himself at the end of June. This novelist, Prix Médicis 2001 with The trip to Francesaw a serious rival appear in early October: Frédéric Beigbeder, 57.

This duel could lead to a “white election”, where no candidate obtains an absolute majority. This is what happened in May, when two journalists, Franz-Olivier Giesbert and Olivier Barrot, were rejected after four unsuccessful rounds.

Balzac, Baudelaire

Among the seven other candidates on Thursday, there is also Eduardo Pisani, singer under the name of Eduardo. This is his 17th candidacy with the ambition of beating Émile Zola’s record, failed 25 times.

Because the green habit, since the creation of the French Academy (1634), is very coveted. Once a chair is vacant, the suitors can notify their candidacy by letter. For a candidate to be elected, he must have received a majority of the votes. Many of them, including well-known writers like Honoré de Balzac, Charles Baudelaire, Paul Verlaine, and Émile Zola, failed to get elected.

Balzac coveted a seat at the Academy for many years. He stepped aside several times, in particular to make way for Victor Hugo, and obtained only two votes during his last candidacy in 1849.

The 25 candidacies of Émile Zola

Charles Baudelaire presented himself in 1861. “I have the honor to inform you that I wish to be registered among the candidates who present themselves for one of the two vacant seats at the French Academy, and I ask you to inform your colleagues of my intentions to this regard “, he wrote in his letter. Realizing that he would never get enough votes, he decided a year later to withdraw his candidacy.

Supported by academics on the left but rejected by the most conservative, Emile Zola has also never managed to be elected despite his twenty-five candidacies (an unmatched record). The writer will end up giving up.

Michel Houellebecq, next to present himself?

More recently, it was Pascal Bruckner (who was finally elected to the Académie Goncourt), Franz-Olivier Giesbert and even the journalist Patrick Poivre d’Arvor who were rejected by the Académie. The latter had obtained only three votes out of 25 in April 2012.

There are still four other chairs to be filled, those of Jean-Denis Bredin, Marc Fumaroli, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing and René de Obaldia. Will they be occupied by a writer? Recently, the perpetual secretary of the Academy, Hélène Carrère d’Encausse, affirmed that she wished “with all his heart” that Michel Houellebecq joins the Coupole. “Yes, eventually, I could be a valid candidate”said the latter in 2015.


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