A literary fan and writer Serge Volle has conducted a damning experiment. He sent 50 pages of French author Claude Simon’s 1962 novel ‘The Palace’, set during the Spanish civil war, to 19 French publishers touting it as fresh material to be considered for publication. The submission was rejected by 12 publishers outrighly, while seven never replied despite the fact that Simon won the Nobel prize for literature in 1985.
One editor claimed in a rejection letter that the book’s “endlessly long sentences completely lose the reader”, and that it failed to have a “real plot with well-drawn characters”.
Simon is often identified with the ‘Nouveau Roman’ movement, which explicitly experimented with literary styles. Simon was particularly noted for his wandering prose, with sentences that went on for several pages, a noted feature of his most acclaimed work, 1981’s ‘The Georgics’.
The experiment exemplified degrading standards in publishing, “abandoning literary works that are not easy to read or that will not set sales records”. Paraphrasing Marcel Proust, he added that you must already be “famous to be published”.