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Autoportrait

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4.27  ·  Rating details ·  1,699 ratings  ·  200 reviews
In this brilliant and sobering self-portrait, Edouard Levé hides nothing from his readers, setting out his entire life, more or less at random, in a string of declarative sentences. Autoportrait is a physical, psychological, sexual, political, and philosophical triumph. Beyond "sincerity," Levé works toward an objectivity so radical it could pass for crudeness, triviality, ...more
Paperback, 117 pages
Published 2012 by Dalkey Archive Press (first published 2005)
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Average rating 4.27  · 
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Matthieu
Mar 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
When I was three, I cut my toe very badly with a garden spade; I entered a perfectly white space, and felt no pain. I used to purchase sports equipment from a man who was later convicted of molesting several boys. I have slept with exactly four people. I take inventory of my possessions twice a year. I am very neat (obsessively so). The smell of wet earth soothes me. I remember everything, though I've learned to forget things as well. I once fell asleep on a bus (ten minutes away from my house), ...more
MJ Nicholls
A charming and revealing series of sentences on selfhood. The sort of thing that if not performed by a respected artist and photographer might seem banal and inconsequential and unpublishable. But these unvarnished burps of candour are more illuminating than the self-inflating piffle found in most autobifographies, so kudos to the enigmatic Levé for another listicle of pleasure, the world of French letters is sadder without him around.
Jeff Jackson
Jan 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
Drawing direct inspiration from Joe Brainard's I REMEMBER, a cousin to David Markson's author tetralogy, a personalized variant on the world historical sentence-long riffs in Patrik Ourednik's EUROPEANA. Edouard Leve's AUTOPORTRAIT is an unconnected series of single sentences about his life. Preferences, memories, allergies, turn-offs, proclivities, escapades, travels, loves, sexual positions, musical favorites, observations. Wisely, the book's title was not translated as "Self Portrait" - the a ...more
Vit Babenco
Oct 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
“To describe my life precisely would take longer than to live it.”
Autoportrait is a one-paragraph-long book.
“I take no pleasure in others’ misfortunes. I do not bow down before a metal idol. I am not horrified by my heritage. I do not till the earth. I do not expect to discover new marvels in classical music, but I’m sure of taking pleasure until I die in the ones I already know.”
The book is a lengthy list of what the author likes and dislikes; what he does and doesn’t; what did and didn’t happe
...more
Proustitute (on hiatus)
Levé has a unique way of inviting his readers into his melancholy; reading this, I was reminded of Suicide and what I can only term—and this is a project on which I'm currently working as well—Levé's performance of melancholy. While many people feel that depression, melancholy, and despair are highly individualized emotional states that the majority do not speak about, Levé channels some of the confessional school in his work (both photographic and literary) but suggests that he needs an interlo ...more
d.a.v.i.d
Ah, good old ‘Suicide, ’ your previous novel. How I miss it.

Along comes Autoportrait, just before the skiff lands on the shores of Nod.

All the a priori research has been done before engaging in this new text.

Our only job now is to read it. And it is short.

'Autoportrait' (Self-portrait), is not a story, but an incoherent rambling. Although most would disagree with me, according the literati.

The only pro-Leve argument that could be used here is that he is a literary cubist. A Picasso of the writ
...more
Melanie
Mar 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
'a factual report seems to me the most beautifully unpoetic poetry there is'.

Edouard Levé's free writing I-statements are humourless, colourless, soundless, they exit on an inaudible sigh, they are intangible.

The form is list-like, robotic and therefore it is easy to agree they are fact but the facts have already died, like cold stars that still throw their light.

' I prefer a ruin to a monument'.

For me, these distant stars shine on multiple human faces, not Edouard alone but what do the repetit
...more
Stephen
Jan 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012
If one of the purposes of art is to alter our perceptions of the world, Leve's Autoportrait has to be considered a work of art. Though on the face of it a mere collection of declarative sentences ranging from the mundane to the subtly profound ("Contradicting myself brings two kinds of pleasure: betraying myself and having a new opinion."), Autoportrait is an at turns unsettling and comforting book. ...more
Ipsit
May 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Among the most obnoxious things one person can ask of another is to “tell me something true about yourself.” Such a banal and breezily intrusive request drastically misunderstands the nature of self-disclosure; it calls for a sort of intimacy on demand, a statement of biographical fact that is expected to reveal, by mysterious inference, the truth about a life. It’s also a question that is close to impossible to answer. Reading Autoportrait, I found myself thinking of it as a fiendishly appropri ...more
Tosh
Jul 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Without a thought in my head, I went to Stories Bookstore and Cafe in Echo Park, and decided to purchase a copy of Edouard Levé's "Autoportrait." I have heard of this book through Dennis Cooper's blog, and reading about "Autoportrait" made me curious to go get the book itself. After purchasing it, I went directly to the Echo Park Library, or Edendale Libray as it is officially known, to start reading the book. I didn't leave the library till I finished the entire book.

Once you start it, the wri
...more
Michael
200728: brutal, benign, bewildering, beautiful (now i have to read 'wittgenstein's mistress'...). as mentioned this is simple, declarative, easy to follow, at first has no particular organization- it is all one untitled paragraph. but as reading progresses what seem to be asides of no consequence, judgements, claims, assertions, begin to reveal the hidden nature of the author, his life, his work, his family, his friends and lovers, despite themselves. this is the most affecting work of fiction i ...more
Charles Dee Mitchell
Jun 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: contemporary-lit
Eduoard Levé’s suicide in 2007 at the age of 43 casts a shadow across any consideration of his work. It now casts a shadow across this review.

The self-portrait is a project for visual artists. Appropriate and telling marks add up to an image in which we think we see the essence of its maker. Literary artists write autobiographies, the longer the better, or memoirs, preferably as excoriating as possible.

Eduoard Levé, who was also a photographer, found the literary equivalent of the painter’s app
...more
Stephen Durrant
Feb 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
This small, strange book is unlike anything I have read. Made up of disconnected and seemingly random statements about the "I," it strikes me as a kind of pointillist autobiography, and the author in fact was a painter and photographer before turning to writing. "Autoportrait" also is a denial of both depth and meaning, although there are, to be sure, deep anxieties, in fact a few neuroses, lurking not too far below the surface. Some of Levé's self-observations are humorous ("When I want to see ...more
Tanuj Solanki
Dec 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2005, 21-century, french
Among the many declarative sentences that form this book, the following

"I'm making an effort to specialize in me"

perhaps captures Edouard Leve's attempts more than anything. His is a Knausgardian impulse mixed with a dire need for brevity. He is not a dabbler in narrative arts, as explained below:

""I do not like the novel" doesn't mean I do not like literature, "I don't like narrative movies" doesn't mean I don't like movies.

His works are unlike any other that I've encountered.
...more
Michael Seidlinger
May 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I prefer books that appear less than they are only to be more. Much, much more.

One of the most honest pieces of writing I've ever read.

This one is timeless.
...more
Kevin Mckinney
Feb 14, 2021 rated it it was amazing
i keep trying to write a long long thing here about podcasts as "friend simulators" but i'm too tired to put it all together and keep stopping after a few paragraphs. i'll say that i think lots of these "riffing" podcasts are uninteresting to me bc they dont stop, you dont have time to process what's being said and it doesn't matter if you did have time to process anyways.

this book also feels like a friend simulator in a way, but i love it for that. the exchange of attention feels reciprocal. th
...more
Aravindakshan Narasimhan
May 28, 2021 rated it really liked it
For strange reason I liked this a lot!

I guess I will re-read this soon.
Grace Liew
Apr 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
Reading this book made me wish there was a search function for printed books. The book is essentially made up of fragments (not even long enough to be called “vignettes,” since each scene ends precisely with the sentence). Which leaves you with random memories of moments, unable to remember where something occurred in the book. The middle could be the beginning, the beginning could be the end. And for days after, a random sentence/scene would materialize in my brain, and I’d have no way of knowi ...more
J
Oct 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Leve is sort of a literary pointillist, his short, declarative statements slowly build up a sense of who he is without ever eliding the individual sentences or hijacking them for some larger narrative project. This might sound insane, but I think this book is actually timeless. It's so straight forward, so basically sincere that it's hard to not imagine someone reading this in 1000 years and being able to get inside his sense of himself as well as someone can in 2013, its blend of the banal and ...more
Bud Smith
Apr 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This guy’s from Fronce.
Ghazaal B.
Aug 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I'm astonished. Reading this book was as if I were in this conversation with the auther where he said random facts about himself (The structure of the book is really interesting. Multiple unrelated, non-narrational independent sentences.) and at some points it made me want to say my version of the fact, at some made me say "I KNOW!" Or "EW". So I dare to say, A great place to look for yourself. You might even mistake my book with a notebook. Only a more private one. More of a diary. Full of anno ...more
Tom
Apr 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Half the fun of reading it is finding meaning in lines like "I only face backwards when riding the train, not forwards." The other half is in discovering that you aren't alone. It's also comforting to encounter a writer who embraces his style so fiercely, not backing from away from it for a sentence. A book like this could never be perfect, but it'd be lesser were it anything else. ...more
Asimenia Phantasmagoria
An easy to read book, ideal company for travelling, suitable for the beach. Some powerful images...
Michael
May 16, 2014 rated it it was ok
From time to time it is impossible not to take a book personally. This is one of those occasions, and I am tempted to leave it alone and dismiss it and not react directly to the content for fear of seeming unsympathetic.
But I am unsympathetic. The colourless melancholy of his phrases portray life as an endless weep, trapped in a cycle not of nihilistic despair, tragedy or blistering confusion, but one of precious humourlessness, an arch-individualist writing unscripted self-pity. It is barely e
...more
PaperBird
Did a review of this book here: https://youtu.be/_WTC3cBBrAo ...more
Michael Palkowski
Mar 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
An intense reading experience if absorbed in the right mood and thankfully I read it wistfully, longingly, prematurely and with a tinge of sadness on my brain. The work is intended to lay the author bare to the reader. The bareness of the intention means that the banal and the everyday is a major focus of the work.

The book is full of simple declarative sentences that make statements of fact, memory or purpose. The sentences are often sparse and not entirely associated with the preceding line of
...more
Wan Nor
Apr 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The human mind is not a novel nor is it a museum with old and memorable artefacts. The human mind is a junkyard of facts. Yes, facts are made of language, but the language of the mind is not a system or an organisation of meaning. The mind is just a collector and the human soul (or portrait) is the witness to his own chaotic universe. No other writer I have read explains this condition and being of the mind better and clearly as Édouard Levé does in this short and brilliant masterpiece.
Aaron Kent
Jul 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013
This little book is like a faucet of beautiful minutia being turned on. You find yourself more often than not, amazed at the number of shared experiences machine gunned at you, and it elates and terrifies you simultaneously.
Kathleen
Aug 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"I take little pleasure in success, failure leaves me cold, but it infuriates me never to have tried, when I could have. I go to the movies not to learn, but for distraction. I don't think movies are stupid, I just don't expect much from them. I believe more in literature, even minor literature, than in movies, even great ones. I don't have time to tell long stories. It takes me a while to realize that certain people bore me, such as people who are witty but tell stories slowly, with lots of use ...more
John Madera
Jul 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Funny, sad, and relentless, Autoportrait's declaratives incantatorily capture a certain melancholic's life, hundreds of quotidian details somehow elevated, cohering into something resembling surprising maybe even meaningful. ...more
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Levé was self-taught as an artist and studied business at the elite École supérieure des sciences économiques et commerciales. He began painting in 1991. Levé made abstract paintings but abandoned the field (claiming to have burned most of his paintings) and took up color photography upon his return from an influential two-month trip to India in 1995.

Levé's first book, Oeuvres (2002), is an imagin
...more

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