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Angelic Echoes

Angelic Echoes: Hervé Guibert and Company

Ralph Sarkonak
Copyright Date: 2000
Pages: 320
  • Book Info
    Angelic Echoes
    Book Description:

    Sarkonak shows that Guibert?s work is a brilliant example of the emphasis on disclosure that marks recent queer writing?in contrast to the denial and cryptic allusion that characterized much of the work by gay writers of previous generations.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7085-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Illustration Credits
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-2)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 3-8)

    On 27 December 1991 Hervé Guibert died as a result of complications arising from an unsuccessful suicide attempt two weeks earlier. The author of some thirty creative works, including a film scenario, a video, and numerous books – eight of which have been translated into English to date² – Guibert gained wide recognition and notoriety with the publication in 1990 ofA l’ami qui ne m’apas sauvé la vie(To the Friend Who Did Not Save My Life. This novel, one of the most famous AIDS fictions in French or any language, recounts the battle of the first-person narrator not...

  7. Chapter One Traces and Shadows
    (pp. 9-27)

    On the wall above and to the left of my computer hangs a photograph. It represents the head of a man in his early thirties with shortish hair and well-defined features: the forehead is high, the chin strong, and the nose long and straight, the lips full. But what strikes, or as Roland Barthes would have said, punctuates my gaze are the piercing eyes, the extraordinary light and shadow of the composition – more than three-quarters of the photo is made up of black and various shades of gray - the back of the subject’s head seen in a mirror...

  8. Chapter Two The Deaths of Desire
    (pp. 28-65)

    Among the photographs taken by Hervé Guibert there is none of Roland Barthes, which at first might seem surprising. Though his relations with Roland Barthes are less well known than his friendship with Michel Foucault, Guibert knew Barthes, whose work he admired. Guibert claimed that his passion for Barthes’s books went back a long time, whereas he admitted to not having read those of Foucault until after the philosopher’s death in 1984 (Interviews with Donner and Eribon). Guibert’s most detailed chronicle of his friendship with Foucault a.k.a. Muzil can be found inÀ l’ami qui ne m’a pas sauvé la...

  9. Chapter Three The Pursuit of Pleasure
    (pp. 66-85)

    On leaving the gym early one evening, I discovered in a vacant lot between two old hotels better known for things other than the quality of their rooms – the famous Cecil known for its strippers and the older Yale known for its music – a brightly painted trailer and a dilapidated white Cadillac, both of which apparently belonged to Miss Sandy Smith, a stripper of some renown, according to a banner waving in the breeze. Between the trailer and the old limousine, a small crowd of people had gathered around something or someone. With their hands in their jeans...

  10. Chapter Four Memories of the Blind
    (pp. 86-114)

    One can easily imagine the condescending paternalism of the sighted director general of the Institute for the Blind that prompted him to have engraved above the main entrance such a ban on expressions of pity. But inDes aveuglessighted people are just as likely to express a cryforpity as a cryofpity, for Guibert’s blind are perfectly “normal”: theirs is a world filled with love, compassion, and kindness but also lies, sadism, and murder. Translated asBlindsight, the French title ofDes aveuglesis even richer in meaning, since the first word can be interpreted as...

  11. Chapter Five Searching for Vincent
    (pp. 115-148)

    Among Hervé Guibert’s many obsessions was that of returning to the same characters, putting them on “stage” in more than one text. Sometimes the character’s name changes from one work to another: for example, the reader recognizes T. or Thierry, as he is called in some texts, under the name of Jules inÀ l,’ami qui ne m’a pas sauvé la vieandLe Protocol compassionnel. But this kind of “transfer” from life to writing was not new in Guibert’s approach to writing. He never attempted to hide how he used (or abused, as some would have it) reality: “In...

  12. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  13. Chapter Six For an AIDS Aesthetics
    (pp. 149-192)

    In “AIDS Writing and the Creation of a Gay Culture,” Michael Denneny has spoken about the “essential vulgarity of [the] purely aesthetic response” to AIDS writing (50). According to Denneny, “Aesthetic appreciation is neither the intention nor the relevant response to such works” (45). And following Douglas Crimp’s lead in advocating “activist responses to AIDS by cultural producers” (“AIDS: Cultural Analysis/Cultural Activism,” 4), a Canadian academic who has written about AIDS literature, James L. Miller (not the same person as the author ofThe Passion of Michel Foucault), envisages a “Novel of Cultural Activism” whose hypothetical hero would be “a...

  14. Chapter Seven Writing on Writing on ...
    (pp. 193-217)

    “I had AIDS for three months.” It is with these still impossible words that Hervé Guibert chose to open his 1990 novel,À l,’ami qui ne m’apas sauvé la vie, a work that is part autobiography, part fiction, and, as I will demonstrate, part document. But the subject of the book posed as much of a challenge to critics as did its generic ambiguity. When dealing with a life-and-death drama that was still being lived and written about by the central “character” when it was first published, one hesitated to treat this novel like any other text. As Lawrence Schehr...

  15. Chapter Eight Partners in Writing
    (pp. 218-255)

    Like Marguerite Duras, who claimed that she would never stop writing, Hervé Guibert too has kept on writing even after his death, as witnessed by the numerous posthumous publications. In this chapter, however, I shall concentrate on the three writers quoted above and their intertextual dialogues with him and his works.

    Born in 1946, Renaud Camus, who is no relation to Albert Camus, and Hervé Guibert have much in common. Both are novelists and diarists, but they have also engaged in other forms of writing, short stories and journalism in Guibert’s case, and travel writing and elegies in Camus’s. Camus...

  16. Chapter Nine Ghost Writing
    (pp. 256-283)

    This chapter started out as an article I never completed on various portrayals of Michel Foucault in contemporary fiction. I was going to use John L’Heureux’s biting satire of academic politics and life,The Handmaid of Desire(1996), as well as a postmodern play entitledMore Divine: A Performance for Roland Barthes(1995) by Sky Gilbert, a Canadian dramatist and theater director, as well as a drag queen notorious for his female persona Jane.¹ Foucault “appears” in the former as the subject of a seminar taught by the formidable Olga Kominska, and in the latter – in the flesh –...

  17. Afterword
    (pp. 284-290)

    Along with many other authors – ancient, pre-modern, modern, and contemporary – Hervé Guibert is a dead white male. But his works represent anything but what that expression usually conjures up in people’s minds when they hear it: canonical figures whose works are surrounded if not buried by tomes of learned commentary and gloss. At the same time, Guibert was neither “politically correct” nor politically involved. No doubt he could best be described as someone who chose to think and write “differently,” to use Foucault’s expression. The very incompletion to which Guibert referred at the end ofL’Homme au chapeau...

  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 291-304)
  19. Index
    (pp. 305-311)