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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Author and Me

Éric Chevillard

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To purchase The Author and Me

Title: The Author and Me
Author: Éric Chevillard
Genre: Novel
Written: 2012 (ENg. 2014)
Length: 146 pages
Original in: French
Availability: The Author and Me - US
The Author and Me - UK
The Author and Me - Canada
L'auteur et moi - Canada
The Author and Me - India
L'auteur et moi - France
  • French title: L'auteur et moi
  • Translated by Jordan Stump

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Our Assessment:

B+ : amusing and clever

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
L'Express . 29/10/2013 Baptiste Liger
The Harvard Crimson . 16/9/2014 Jude D. Russo

  From the Reviews:
  • "Le récit, délirant et entrecoupé de digressions, est alors contaminé par des notes de bas de page, (volontairement) envahissantes, dans lesquelles l'auteur commente les faits, analyse les situations, déblatère sur sa vie et brosse un autoportrait féroce." - Baptiste Liger, L'Express

  • "While asserting the conventional modern critical opinion that the author cannot be separated from his text, Chevillard probes the question with a discernment that cannot be attributed to the hordes of petty Historicists who treat authors like computers, with straightforward biographical inputs leading to straightforward literary outputs. The Author and Me, with its insights into the interactions and even struggles between the creator and his creation, should be required reading for every would-be student of literature in this generation." - Jude D. Russo, The Harvard Crimson

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Author and Me is an entertaining variation on the self-reflective work that examines the role and positions of writer, protagonist, and reader.
       As Chevillard explains in his Foreword, he wants to reassert his authorial autonomy:

The author has his pride, and his autonomy. He stands before you determined to keep his distance from the narrator of his new book, to distinguish himself from him as sharply as he can, and thus to hold fast to his mastery.
       The novel proper is presented practically as a monologue, a man subjecting a poor young Mademoiselle he encounters at a terrace café to a diatribe -- ostensibly concerned with his having been served cauliflower gratin rather than the trout amandine he had ordered and been promised. No fan of cauliflower, especially gratin, he rails on and on.
       In trying to separate himself from his mouthpiece the author employs footnotes, trying to make clear that resemblances between him and his narrator don't mean they should be considered one and the same. He does admit that he, too, is no great fan of cauliflower gratin -- but, for example, denies he would express himself quite so emphatically contra. He insists, too, that: "The author's mind is more spirited, bolder, and even more sensitive" -- and that, as the narrative proceeds, he: "will gain the upper hand and prevail over his subject".
       The footnotes add a whole new dimension to the novel -- to the point where the (struggling) novelist decides, about midway through, on a more radical show of who is the boss:
Surely there can be no better way for the author to ensure his mastery and stand up to his character than to drag him out of his soliloquy by one ear and cast him without warning into another fiction
       He does so in the footnote -- number twenty-six of forty -- and gets rather carried away with this secondary story (which, he suggests, might be called My Ant -- as if he could reduce his character to the most insignificant of creatures): at over forty (!) pages, it constitutes about a third of the novel total.
       The author notes that readers may have their doubts about the extensive harangue against cauliflower gratin -- and that:
No, the reader will surely prefer to see all this as an allegory, and will struggle to decipher it: that cauliflower gratin can only be a metaphor for the good old-fashioned novel still stewing in the kitchens of our literature.
       With claims that: "The world is now a gigantic cauliflower, gratinéed" -- against which all the "subtlety and finesse" of trout amandine can't compete ... -- the narrator's arguments certainly lend themselves to broader interpretation. And the author reinforces much of this in his footnotes: "Literature is misery", he admits, and:
No longer does literature invade the real world like a hammered spike; rather it begs to hold on to its place, it strives to take up as little room as possible. Its time has come and gone, all its attempts to adapt and make nice with its age work against it, hasten its death throes; any violence, revolt, and irony it has left fade in those bows and curtseys. How to go on believing in it ? The author stubbornly keeps at it, he's too far in to give up, now more less incapable of any other trade, but his literature is without illusions, sabotaged, suicidal.
       The "surprise resolution" -- quite the final turn of events, and certainly not the ending the poor Mademoiselle subjected to this lengthy talking-to deserves, is also elaborated on in a footnote, allowing the author the last word, in a final attempt at demonstrating who is in charge.
       The Author and Me is a creative take on authorial autonomy and the role of the author in the text. The narrative has an audience: in the first instance, the passive Mademoiselle, privy solely to the soliloquy; in the second, the actual reader, who benefits from the author's footnote-commentary on his own work (which, however, as commentary, merely makes for an expanded monologue: there is no dialogue between author and subject, no give and take, no conversation). Yet for what seems the author's complete control, he clearly struggles with it, unconvinced.
       The Author and Me is also an author's struggle with what fiction is and can be in this day and age. With his creative spin and approaches he tries to push boundaries -- even as he's aware that they've all been pushed before, and that there's little new under the sun. Yet he's unwilling to give in to the same old structures and forms -- even in the final instance, for example, as he brings his story to a conclusion that is both clichéd and entirely absurd.
       It's an odd but agreeably thought-provoking read -- not too aggressively demanding of the reader (for the most part Chevillard seems happy enough to play by himself -- as evidenced also by his ultimately dispensing of the prop that was the conversation-partner in the narrative-proper, the Mademoiselle) but keeping readers on their toes, and providing some decent entertainment and commentary along the way.

- M.A.Orthofer, 24 April 2015

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The Author and Me: Reviews: Eric Chevillard: Other books by Éric Chevillard under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       French author Éric Chevillard was born in 1964.

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© 2015-2024 the complete review

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