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Autoportrait by Édouard Levé
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Autoportrait (2005)

by Édouard Levé

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877138,736 (4.07)10
  1. 00
    Je me souviens by Georges Perec (bluepiano)
    bluepiano: Autoportrait is strongly reminiscent of the Perec piece and of the work on which Perec based his, I Remember by Joe Brainard; in fact Leve mentions in Autoportrait his admiration of Joe Brainard and was I suspect influenced by both works.
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Hey, I'm a huuuge fan of Suicide (the book, by Leve), and I loved the Paris Review excerpts from Autoportrait, but, I must be fair and honest, and say that a lot of this book was...you know - plain. Or dull, I suppose. There are moments of great clarity and insight and...things that really made me reflect and notice myself in a new (or fresh) way. But, ultimately, a lot of this book was boring or tedious. The Paris Review 'summary' (essentially), is actually better, because it distills the best parts from this.
Check out Suicide by Leve if you haven't already. Especially if you or someone you know has experienced it first-hand. ( )
  weberam2 | Nov 24, 2017 |
Levé's Autoportrait is a unique text. It's not a novel, but it's certainly not a memoir. Composed largely by short declarative sentences relating personal facts about the author's experiences and thoughts, the form of the text imitates the mundane, yet the spaces between each pause marked by a period continuously deepen into a valley of meaning so that by the end of the work you are moved as a reader by what appears to be just a long string of almost random statements. You know a great deal about the author by the time you reach the last brief sentence on the last page, but strangely and wonderfully, the pathos of the traditional memoir remains conspicuously absent in the “narrative,” instead being built peripherally from silences. ( )
  poetontheone | Dec 20, 2015 |
Levé has a unique way of inviting his readers into his melancholy; reading this, I was reminded of Suicide and what I can only term—and this is a project on which I’m currently working as well—Levé’s performance of melancholy. While many people feel that depression, melancholy, and despair are highly individualized emotional states that the majority do not speak about, Levé channels some of the confessional school in his work (both photographic and literary) but suggests that he needs an interlocutor in order to fully feel his way through the anguish.

Which is not to say that Autoportrait is a depressing read; like Suicide, it is full of a macabre humor and a very dry wit. I think it was wise on the part of Lorin Stein to render the title in the original French rather than as “self-portrait”: the quick, declarative sentences here are almost machine-like in their monotony at first. It is almost as if Levé is confessing mechanically and automatically rather than organically, but as the confessions continue we see some repetitions (we even see a few places where Levé contradicts himself while still insisting on speaking only the truth) and we acclimate ourselves to Levé’s confession.

We get to know him inside and out through this short 120-page book, in fragments and at random. One comes away from Autoportrait feeling as though one has learned all there is to know about this man’s life, his thoughts, his views on art and his work, his obsessive meanderings about his body, his childhood memories, his sex live, his hatred for the color green in interior design, and a host of other desires, worries, joys, and regrets that make Levé who he is. It also makes one wonder, as a reader, what this strange yet intimate relationship is between Levé and his reader, what is this insistent need for company in the midst of chaos. ( )
1 vote proustitute | Jul 17, 2014 |

Édouard Levé was writing this book at age 39. He hanged himself at age 42. Somewhere I read a review that said something to the effect of, in starting to read the book you will either be immediately annoyed or immediately captivated. I was the latter. The format is deceptively simple; Levé writes dispassionate descriptive sentences about himself, one after another, with no breaks in the text. Over time threads grow and a portrait of this man begins to fill out. It is possible that Levé shares enough details about himself that anyone can find something to identify with in the text. To me, this is true writing. It is an anti-autobiography for there is likely no embellishment. There is also no narrative arc. It is flat and seemingly one-dimensional. But it is not really that. We know that Levé took his own life. But we also know that at some point he expected to die at the age of eighty-five, or so he writes in this book. We also learn that he'd attempted suicide before, been medicated, hospitalized. There is much to think about. While many of the individual bits and pieces Levé shares with us are interesting in their own right, there is also the wide-angle shot to consider and what it encompasses, what it tells us about ourselves if we dare to look close enough. ( )
2 vote S.D. | Apr 4, 2014 |
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Adolescent, je croyais que "La Vie mode d'emploi" m'aiderait à vivre, et "Suicide mode d'emploi" à mourir. J'ai passé trois ans et trois mois à l'étranger. Un de mes amis jouit dans la trahison. J'oublie ce qui me déplaît. J'ai peut-être parlé sans le savoir avec quelqu'un qui a tué quelqu'un. Je vais regarder dans les impasses. Ce qu'il y a au bout de la vie ne me fait pas peur. Je n'écoute pas vraiment ce qu'on me dit. J'ai parlé à Salvador Dalí à l'âge de deux ans : Décrire précisément ma vie me prendrait plus de temps que la vivre. La date de naissance qu'indique ma carte d'identité est fausse. Je ne sais pas sur qui j'ai de l'influence. Je parle à mes objets lorsqu'ils sont tristes. Je ne sais pas pourquoi j'écris. Je suis calme dans les retrouvailles. Je n'ai rien contre le réveillon. Quinze ans est le milieu de ma vie, quelle que soit la date de ma mort. Je crois qu'il y a une vie après la vie, mais pas une mort après la mort. Je ne demande pas si on m'aime. Je ne pourrai dire qu'une fois sans mentir « je meurs ». Le plus beau jour de ma vie est peut-être passé.
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