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I prefer a ruin to a monument.
July 7, 2012 6:52 PM   Subscribe

A liquor store in Amsterdam. A veteran in Bagdad. A family in Rome. A WWII veterans memorial in Berlin. A house in Oxford. Edouard Levé photographed towns in the United States that shared names with famous cities. He photographed fully-clothed actors reenacting scenes from rugby and pornography [nsfw]. He also wrote some novels, influenced by Oulipo. Autoportrait, describes his life in 120 pages of unordered vignettes and brief, declarative sentences—"The girl whom I loved the most left me. [...] I am uneasy in rooms with small windows." and so on. His fourth novel, Suicide, is a one-sided conversation between an anonymous narrator ("I") and his friend ("you"), who committed suicide twenty years ago. It's a painfully intimate meditation on the act and its fallout on its own merits—"Your life was hypothesis. Those who die old are made of the past. Thinking of them, one thinks of what they have done. Thinking of you, one thinks of what you could have become. You were, and you will remain, made up of possibilities."—but few will read Suicide unburdened with the knowledge that Edouard Levé killed himself several days after completing it, at the age of 47.

Further reading:

The first two paragraphs of Suicide, on the Dalkey Archive Press' website
A long excerpt of lines from Autoportrait (from n+1, included above, recommended.)
Photography portfolio / biography [large pdf]
More from his series Amérique
The Millions' review of Suicide, which explores some of the issues around the novel.
posted by spanishbombs (7 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite

 
"Valley" is a pretty topographically implausible name for a liquor store in Amsterdam.
posted by phrontist at 8:24 PM on July 7, 2012


Leve's work haunts me, maybe it is the accidents of geography, or the strength of biography in something so rigously exprimental, or the tension b/w work and image, but it's so moving.
posted by PinkMoose at 8:28 PM on July 7, 2012


Not wanting to change things does not mean I am conservative, I like for things to change, just not having to do it.

I like this guy.
posted by phrontist at 8:31 PM on July 7, 2012


For some reason I feel like there was just a post on Leve recently, but I guess I must have been pointed to his work from somewhere else. But, thanks for this; very rich post.
posted by Saxon Kane at 9:40 PM on July 7, 2012


Ah, it's a store in Amsterdam, NY.
posted by prolific at 9:44 PM on July 7, 2012


He died at the age of 42, not 47.

Not noted for the purpose of splitting hairs, though. I thought it was worth remarking on because he seems to only have begun publishing his photography and novels at the age of 34, meaning that nearly all his works of significance occurred during a frantic-sounding 6-year span of middle age.
posted by ardgedee at 6:17 AM on July 8, 2012


And in correcting somebody else, I make a new error.

That should have been eight years' span, of course. Not six.
posted by ardgedee at 7:20 AM on July 8, 2012


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