Autoportrait by Edouard Levé

Autoportrait by Edouard Levé

French Literature

Original title – Autoportrait

Translator Lorin Stein

Source – personnel copy

Generous of lyric, Jehovah’s Witness
Stands in Cologne Marktplatz
Drums come in
When the drums come in fast
Drums to shock, into brass evil

What have you got in that paper bag?
Is it a dose of Vitamin C?
Ain’t got no time for Western medicine
I am Damo Suzuki

The fuck-up like red acid rain
Give it to me Daki every day
Who is Mr. Karlheinz Stockhausen?
Introduce me
I’m Damo Suzuki

Soundtracks, Soundtracks
Melched together, the lights
The lights above you

I choose The fall as the lyrics from Mark E smith have the same choppy style as Leve and this song one my favourites is an Homage to Damo Suzuki the Can member .

I read Leve other book Suicide a couple of years ago , so last week when I was in Nottingham , I was looking for some books to read in the large waterstones that is there , I found this and two other books from Dalkey archive .Leve started as a painter then became a photographer (he mainly photographed cities Florence , Oxford , New york amoung them . He then moved from art to writing in a book that described 500 made up work of art (This is one I really want to read by him ) He then wrote this and then later Suicide which after he finished this book he killed himself .

I will never know how many books I have read. Raymond Roussel, Charles Baudelaire, Marcel Proust, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Antonio Tabucchi, André Breton, Oliver Cadiot, Jorge Luis Borges, Andy Warhol, Gertrude Stein, Ghérasim Luca, Georges Perec, Jacques Roubaud, Joe Brainard, Roberto Juarroz, Guy Debord, Fernando Pessoa, Jack Kerouac, La Rouchefoucauld, Baltasar Gracian, Roland Barthes, Walt Whitman, Nathalie Quintane, the Bible, and Bret Easton Ellis all matter to me. I have read less of the Bible than of Marcel Proust. I prefer Nathalie Quintane to Baltasar. Guy Debord matters more to me than Roland Barthes. Roberto Juarroz makes me laugh more than Andy Warhol. Jack Keuroac makes me want to live more than Charles Baudelaire. La Rochefoucauld depresses me less than Bret Easton Ellis. Olivier Cadiot cheers me up more than André Breton. Joe Brainard is less affirmative than Walt Whitman. Raymond Roussel surprises me more than Baltasar Gracian, but Baltasar Gracian makes me more intelligent .

I’ve read some of these writers it shows what he read although he said elsewhere he reread a lot and he  had read four biographies .I feel that was good thing as this is a unique take on a life .

Now this is a book the writer himself called literary cubism .The book as the title suggests is a portrait , one can assume it is Leve himself if not a mix of himself and people he knows .What we get is a stream of short sentences that tells a mans life but in small unconnected parts . So this is a life that is just told in facts and those facts come small , large , past ,present likes and dislikes. BUt also to the facts come some sayings , feelings and quirky ideas all in short shots  . Now the first page mentions Georges Perec’s book and yes this is from the same oeuvre of fiction as it is made up of unconnected parts in a way no narrative just a journey .Gilbert and George see there lives as an art work dress eat listen live the same life . Well this is part of what Leve is doing to me this is closer to art than literature .What we get is as he says a cubist view of a man all angles and bold lines .

I prefer a ruin to a monument
A short quote but this is the other side to the facts is what made Leve tick .

As I say I view this as art in words .An expansion of ideas that first surfaced in Conceptual art as a movement , with artist like Rauschenberg , whom used a telegram as a self  portrait in the early 1960 , this was first of many examples of telegrams being used . Something in this book remind me of the sparse nature of  this writing ,when people had to send telegrams , like the tweets of the days every word matter so facts  became important and the dressing of what we said didn’t matter . This is like a set of telegrams that have been cut to just those sentences then pulled out and stuck together , like William Burroughs used to do when he wrote and later David Bowie .Another way he could write this book is like in the film Finding forrester the main character a writer says one way he starts to write is to just type and get the rhythm of typing and let your mind wander , I get the rhythm of keys being tapped I have that when I am typing my blog posts .I also choose a quote about the writers he like as a guide to what influenced him .

What is your favourite book that maybe is more art than Literature ?

 

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. 1streading
    Jul 31, 2015 @ 19:02:44

    The only one of Leve’s I’ve read is Works which was certainly interesting. I’d be tempted to try this and Suicide (capitalisation very important there!)

    Reply

  2. Max Cairnduff
    Aug 20, 2015 @ 17:20:43

    It does sound fascinating. Thanks for the review Stu, as this had been on my radar but had rather slipped off it. Good point re art in words.

    Reply

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