cover image To the Friend Who Did Not Save My Life

To the Friend Who Did Not Save My Life

Herve Guibert, Guibert. Scribner Book Company, $18.95 (272pp) ISBN 978-0-689-12120-3

``I had AIDS for three months,'' opens this moving French bestseller, which reads like a personal memoir. Delivered with wit, verve and valor by a seasoned author and former Le Monde journalist, the novel chronicles the experiences of its bisexual protagonist and narrator, a writer/newsman to whom the author gives his own name and who at 30 is so fair and cherubic that hookers in Mexico offer themselves gratis. Empathetic and informative about AIDS, packed with medical information, the account miraculously avoids sounding lugubrious. Instead it absorbs the reader in physical details of protagonist Guibert's illness and daily routines (e.g., the constant drawing of blood samples), and of his mood swings upon learning he is ``seropositive.'' Metaphors for the disease include bullfighting, colonization, a game of Pac Man. Fearing he may crave a swift death, Guibert amasses a suicidal dose of a heart drug. Others who are doomed, both gays and straights, offer one another comradely support, even as they rally around another dying friend, a famous author named Muzil (a character based on French philosopher Michel Foucault). The false ``friend'' of the title is the manipulative manager of a pharmaceutical lab, who feigns sympathy, dangles hope of a pioneering vaccine and gloats that he is not infected. Even those who might hesitate at reading a book on this tragic subject will respond to Guibert's intelligent, humane tale. (Aug.)