Suicide by Édouard Levé

SUICIDE-edouard-Leve (1)

Suicide by Édouard Levé

French Fiction

Translator – Jan Steyn

Source – personnel copy on Kindle

Édouard Levé is a writer I wanted to read for a while ,one of his earlier books appeared on the BTBA the american equivalent of the IFFP  .He was a self taught artist ,who after visiting India became a photograph ,he published  a good number of books of his photographs and laterly he wrote four books in the last four years of his life ,this being his last book for ten days after handing in the manuscript for this book  Édouard Levé himself committed suicide ,this makes this book one that leaves you as the reader questioning was it ,is it a final note on himself ?

You used to read dictionaries like other people read novels .Each entry is a character ,you’d say ,who might be encountered on some other page. Plots many of them would form during any random reading.The story changes according to the order in which the entries are read.

from the first section and alsomaybe how you could read this book .

Well that said this book has an unusual style ,I felt the first of the two sections was like an epilogue ,we see a friend looking back twenty year after a close friend committed suicide ,these remembrance ,afterthought ,what happened next are short to the point .We see a man’s life told in what happened after he died ,his friend tries to piece together the point that he decide to do the deed and the points that lead to the dead and also the outcome of the dead .What is the lasting effect of one death to suicide on those around him ?As I say the book in a way seems about-face because the second section is composed of poems ,lines written by the man himself in the time leading up to his suicide .But for me this work as I had one fixed idea on the first section the second person point of view ,with the strong use of you every passage has “you” at the end of it ,almost accusing as in why did you ? But also enquiring you as opposed to me why did you ?.

Traps seduce me

Liars fool me

Informers horrify me


The baroque sickens me

The Gothic chills me

Novels enlighten me


Red irritates me

Black moves me

White calms me

The second section is very much the man’s point of view on life as you see .


This book showed what can be great when someone from a different artistic field moves into writing .There is a strong sense of the abstract ,as much as we feel we know this man ,we don’t ,we know he is married ,but don’t know where he came from what he is like other than the scare facts we are given .Also Édouard Levé keen eye for detail ,from his other artistic field is evident ,keenly observed little gems ,such as a gesture ,an eye for the here and now of what happened .I also felt the book could be seen as two case the first the case why he shouldn’t have committed the suicide even thou he did ,his friend saying your life was this that and the other ,what you did ok some of it wrong ,but on the other hand  some of it was good .The other half the second section is the case for why he did it from his own words, I was this ,I was that .Almost like the Damon Hirst piece lets eat outdoors today ,where we see a fly born on rotting meat and then fly into second half of the piece to ultimately die in an electric fly killer .This concept of two halves rings true in this book .An earlier book of his yet to be translated has caught my eye a book describe 500 books not written but he would like to write almost a crossover into conceptual art .This is what I feel this is as much as a work of fiction it is a work of art to complex to paint or photographs one man’s life the reason why and the suicide but able to be caught in words .Of course I imagine for years to come the main discussion will be on his own suicide and the timing of the book it is hard to avoid this as it is so timely ,but if he hadn’t would it been viewed as more of a conceptual art piece as a book one odes wonder .

Have you read Édouard Levé?

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Max Cairnduff
    May 30, 2013 @ 17:27:03

    This is very much on my radar, or rather was but slipped off it until you moved it back on there. I intend though to read his other work, the title of which I’ll need to check again, first.


  2. Brian Joseph
    May 31, 2013 @ 12:46:00

    Great commentary Stu.

    As I love experimentation and innovation in writing, I find your analysis of the style of this book to be fascinating.

    Perhaps we should have more artists in other fields write fiction and see what results come of it!


  3. Heather
    May 31, 2013 @ 17:02:25

    you posed some interesting points to ponder. Did the author write this while he was first, deciding whether to die, and then second, once he had decided, it served as his testement to that choice. It’s not something I could read at this time, but at other times, I would have found it fascinating.


  4. Violet
    Jun 05, 2013 @ 08:17:58

    This sounds interesting, but like Heather, it’s not something I could read right now. I can’t stand dispassionately outside of writing about suicide, so it’s best avoided.


  5. Parrish
    Jun 07, 2013 @ 18:38:36

    this is on my kindle also


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May 2013


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