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Suicide by Édouard Levé - Book Review - Kristopher Cook

Suicide by Édouard Levé

Reviewed:
by Kristopher Cook
Suicide by Édouard Levé Book Cover
Synopsis:
Presenting itself as an investigation into the suicide of a close friend, more than twenty years earlier, Levé gives us, little by little, a striking portrait of a man, with all his talents and flaws, who chose to reject his life, and all the people who loved him, in favour of oblivion.
Genre: Contemporary

Édouard Levé turned in the manuscript for Suicide just days before committing murder. This got me thinking, does this act outside of fiction, therefor turn it into non-fiction?

Equally, this makes the work incredibly meta, which for some readers, can be a complete turn-off. However, it’s more than a simple wink to the audience; it’s the author ending their own life for reasons that might not even be mentioned in the plot.

In his lifetime, Levé was first known in France for his work as an abstract photographer. I think this is important to note when viewing Suicide as a piece of art that’s split down the middle. The literature and the reality.

While they come to replicate each other, it’s interesting to also see how they can change each other due to certain actions or words. ‘I’ve never heard a single person, since your death, tell your life’s story starting at the beginning.

The same is true for Levé. We immediately think of his suicide, and not the life that led to that point.

Delivered in a second-person narrative, Levé often refers to the reader as you. You, the friend of the narrator that’s committed suicide some twenty years prior. Yes, you are dead.

Mediating on the subject of suicide, the narrator continues to ponder the reasons as to why you have decided to end your life.

This delivery, at first, can be a little jarring, given that reading the book requires the reader to be breathing. However, the flow soon settles, and the rest of the plot plays out smoothly.

It’s also much like the style presented by Nabokov in Pale Fire; talking at you, rather than guiding you through the plot.

Whilst Suicide remains as fiction, it does raise a lot of questions regarding the power of an author and their work. At what point should we separate the two? I spoke about this topic more in-depth concerning Louis-Ferdinand Céline.

I think most readers will be able to connect on some level with Levé’s downbeat narration. The book only spans 144 pages, so it never drags on longer than necessary. We all have moments when we feel angry or upset, and this book can serve as a cathartic release of these emotions.

What would life be without us in it? The answer: terrible for those around us.

Closing Thoughts

Even after writing this review, I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about this book.

Its prosaic meandering does serve its purpose, and knowing the fate of the writer does (either rightly or wrongly) add weight to text. Contrast to that, there’s not a great deal going on outside of the initially mentioned scenario.

What are your thoughts on Suicide? Am I completely missing the point? Let me know in the comments below.

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