cover image Autoportrait


Edouard Lev%C3%A9, trans. from the French by Lorin Stein. Dalkey Archive, $12.95 trade paper (117p) ISBN 978-1-56478-707-1

Simultaneously brilliant and banal, Lev%C3%A9's newest (after Suicide) is a vivid self-portrait/autobiography that lays bare the workings of his mind, the flashes of recollection that make up his life. Fears, observations, pets, favorite words, foods, sleeping positions, and sexual infidelities emerge in a dreamy, stream-of-conscious m%C3%A9lange reminiscent of Lyn Hejinian's seminal My Life: "I cut my own hair%E2%80%A6I have seen too many grinning corpses on TV%E2%80%A6I will repeat sentences or opinions that I've heard, verbatim%E2%80%A6To reassure myself, when I am lost in a foreign city, I go to the supermarket." There is no coherent narrative here%E2%80%94no beginning or middle%E2%80%94, and the string of unconnected musings does occasionally grow monotonous; but then life is often unremarkable, and Lev%C3%A9 does not discriminate. This is an autobiography to be read slowly, piece by piece, savoring the sensory details and fragmented stories, all the while pondering what parts of our own lives we would use to tell our own self-portrait%E2%80%94though Lev%C3%A9 admits that "To describe [a] life would take longer than to live it." (Mar. 15)