On the Médicis jury, reform was a topic too sensitive to be broached, said Marie Darrieussecq, a member since 2017. At least one juror automatically voted for books from his publisher, she said.
Jurors, writers and editors said that publishers also secured the votes of judges who were not employees through other means, including book advances or payments for a preface.
“In France, it might be 15,000 euros, 20,000 euros,” Ms. Darrieussecq said, referring to advances of $18,000 and $24,000. “But for these 20,000 euros, they will be loyal, faithful, which are pretty words to say corrupt.”
Defenders of lifetime appointments argue that the holders develop expertise.
Christine Jordis, a longtime editor and professional reader at Gallimard and a Femina judge since 1996, rejected the suggestion that her work influenced her voting — saying instead that it gave her financial independence.
She dismissed critics of lifetime appointments, saying, “These are young people who believe in egalitarianism, who think anybody can read as well as anybody else.”
Sylvie Ducas, an expert on literary juries at the University of Paris-Est Créteil, said that even partial reforms would help the Renaudot and other prizes regain credibility.
“They have to reform, so that they can be in a system that reflects more our understanding of a democratic culture,” Ms. Ducas said, adding, “A jury that doesn’t know how to reform at the moment it’s under threat, that’s a dead jury.”