Daniel Levin Becker on Works

Oulipian reviewing Oulipo-friendly, at Music & Literature:

Works was Édouard Levé’s first book—of text, anyway—but by the time he arrived at literature he already had the aura of one who had alighted there out of some combination of happenstance and vagabond fascination, as though it were a medium he would flirt with briefly before moving back to photography, or forward to film or sculpture or, say, clothing design or applied animal husbandry. Structurally and generically, Works has little in common with the three texts that would follow: Journal (Newspaper, 2004), which takes the form of a single day’s paper, divided into the customary sections, international affairs through television listings, from which all identifying names and places have been removed; Autoportrait (2005), a fractal memoir of 1,500 first-person sentences, in no apparent order, describing details of mostly mundane import; and Suicide (2008), an exercise in affective memory occasioned by the recent suicide of the narrator’s friend, and whose manuscript was famously delivered to the French publisher P.O.L ten days before Levé hanged himself in his apartment in Paris. What unifies Levé’s books is a questing sort of ambivalence, an elegantly moody detachment from the way life goes about itself in the actual world. The results are all depressive and magnificent in their own way, and in their own way all reinforce a notion of the author as more of a melancholy dilettante, a homesick alien anthropologist, than a writer.


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