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Edouard Levé’s Suicide and Realizing the End

In the course of discussing Edouard Levé’s final work, Suicide, it’s probably impossible to forego mentioning the author’s own suicide.

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Edouard Levé’s Suicide and Realizing the End

In the course of discussing Edouard Levé’s final work, Suicide, it’s probably impossible to forego mentioning the author’s own suicide: On October 15, 2007, 10 days after submitting the manuscript to his editor, Levé killed himself. That Suicide was followed by suicide might be said to lend the slim, spare novel, which reflects on and reimagines the suicide of an unnamed friend of Levé 20 years earlier, an almost unbearable poignancy. The “you” of the work—ostensibly the long-dead, long-gone friend—becomes, uncannily, “I,” becomes Levé himself. Other details shift too: It’s the reader who’s now left behind, to wonder and ponder, to consider the implacable reasoning of a man on the verge of self-appointed, self-inflicted extinction.

But Suicide is not a suicide note. (Anyway, as Jan Steyn, who has translated the novel from its original French, observes in his afterword, Levé is said to have left behind an actual note.) To treat it as one is to miss much of the point of a work that is, at once, love letter, conceptual portrait, philosophical investigation, and case study in philology. Levé was, first and foremost, a conceptual artist, and the concept that most thoroughly preoccupied him was difference, the Derridean insight that meaning is never identical with itself. In much of his work, Levé exploited our innocent belief in our own understanding, our easy acceptance of signification. In Amérique (2006), for example, Levé collected photographs of small American towns named after world capitals, each picture in the series building on the frisson of dissonance.

But perhaps the Levé work most akin to Suicide is Autoportrait (2005; the English translation is forthcoming from Dalkey Archive Press). In Autoportrait, Levé offers up, with no paragraph breaks, observations about himself interspersed with his opinions. Suicide also works as a form of portrait, presenting a series of memories, the narrator’s recollections of his friend frequently serving as occasions for imaginative flights, attempts at interpretation, moments of reflection, a mode of biography. But in rather typical Levéian fashion, Suicide (and Levé’s suicide) becomes an after-the-fact gloss on the earlier work, which begins with an intimation of the author’s death by his own hand, both fulfilling its presentiment and demanding that we complete Levé’s self-portrait, re-read and re-view it in light of deferred information. (We might go further with the conceit: In 2002, Levé published Œuvres, a catalogue of 533 works that did not yet exist; he went on to realize some of the described projects. Leve’s suicide thus becomes a realization of the end he imagines for himself in his earlier writing.)

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And yet it strikes me as misguided to treat Suicide as mere intellectual exercise. To do so is to acknowledge Levé’s (considerable and formidable) intellectual accomplishment at the risk of slighting the work’s aesthetic and emotion. (Of course, the novel’s true merit lies in its refusal to separate the philosophic from the imaginative, the linguistic from the affective.) The details of the suicide are presented simply:

One Saturday in the month of August, you leave your home wearing your tennis gear, accompanied by your wife. In the middle of the garden you point out to her that you’ve forgotten your racket in the house. You go back to look for it, but instead of making your way toward the cupboard in the entryway where you normally keep it, you head down into the basement. Your wife doesn’t notice this. She stays outside. The weather is fine. She’s making the most of the sun. A few moments later she hears a gunshot. She rushes into the house, cries out your name, notices that the door to the stairway leading to the basement is open, goes down, and finds you there. You’ve put a bullet in your head with the rifle you had carefully prepared. On the table, you left a comic book open to a double-page spread. In the heat of the moment, your wife leans on the table; the book falls closed before she understands that this was your final message.

These details are excruciating, all the more so for their relentless clarity, their plainness. They speak to us much as the announcement of Septimus Warren Smith’s suicide speaks to Clarissa Dalloway at the party she has spent all day preparing in Mrs. Dalloway. “Death was defiance,” Mrs. Dalloway thinks. “Death was an attempt to communicate; people feeling the impossibility of reaching the centre which, mystically, evaded them; closeness drew apart; rapture faded, one was alone. There was an embrace in death.” The narrator of Suicide envisions self-inflicted death in this way; his friend’s suicide speaks directly to him, invites him to make sense of the act and the life that preceded it, to know his friend in death as he could never know him in life. “Only the living seem incoherent,” the narrator remarks. “Death closes the series of events that constitutes their lives.” But—and Clarissa Dalloway understands this much too—death is also an accusation. To understand suicide, to accept it, is to stand accused: of surviving, perhaps, of compromising, of deferring meaning. “But, all things considered,” Suicide concludes, “the lull of death won out over life’s painful commotion.” The terrifying thing about the novel is that, as it ends, it’s no longer about one man’s demise, no longer about his friend’s attempt to grapple with it; its “I” and its “you” suddenly comprehend us.

Edouard Levé’s Suicide was released on April 14 by Dalkey Archive Press. To purchase it, click here.

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Watch: The Long-Awaited Deadwood Movie Gets Teaser Trailer and Premiere Date

Welcome to fucking Deadwood!

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Deadwood
Photo: HBO

At long last, we’re finally going to see more of Deadwood. Very soon after the HBO series’s cancellation in 2006, creator David Milch announced that he agreed to produce a pair of two-hour films to tie up the loose ends left after the third season. It’s been a long road since, and after many false starts over the years, production on one standalone film started in fall 2018. And today we have a glorious teaser for the film, which releases on HBO on May 31. Below is the official description of the film:

The Deadwood film follows the indelible characters of the series, who are reunited after ten years to celebrate South Dakota’s statehood. Former rivalries are reignited, alliances are tested and old wounds are reopened, as all are left to navigate the inevitable changes that modernity and time have wrought.

And below is the teaser trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAcftIUE6MQ

Deadwood: The Movie airs on HBO on May 31.

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Watch: Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Gets Teaser Trailer

When it rains, it pours.

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Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Photo: Columbia Pictures

When it rains, it pours. Four days after Quentin Tarantino once more laid into John Ford in a piece written for his Beverly Cinema website that saw the filmmaker referring to Ford’s She Wore a Yellow Ribbon as Tie a Yellow Ribbon, and two days after Columbia Pictures released poster art for QT’s ninth feature that wasn’t exactly of the highest order, the studio has released a teaser for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The film was announced early last year, with Tarantino describing it as “a story that takes place in Los Angeles in 1969, at the height of hippy Hollywood.”

Set on the eve of the Manson family murders, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood tells the story of TV actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), as they try to get involved in the film industry. The film also stars Margot Robbie (as Sharon Tate), Al Pacino, the late Luke Perry, Damian Lewis, Dakota Fanning, Emile Hirsch, Timothy Olyphant, Kurt Russell, and Bruce Dern in a part originally intended for the late Burt Reynolds.

See the teaser below:

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Scf8nIJCvs4

Columbia Pictures will release Once Upon a Time in Hollywood on July 26.

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Watch the Stranger Things 3 Trailer, and to the Tune of Mötley Crüe and the Who

A wise woman once said that there’s no such thing as a coincidence.

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Stranger Things 3
Photo: Netflix

A wise woman once said that there’s no such thing as a coincidence. On Friday, Jeff Tremaine’s The Dirt, a biopic about Mötley Crüe’s rise to fame, drops on Netflix. Today, the streaming service has released the trailer for the third season of Stranger Things. The clip opens with the strains of Mötley Crüe’s “Home Sweet Home,” all the better to underline that the peace and quiet that returned to the fictional rural town of Hawkins, Indiana at the end of the show’s second season is just waiting to be upset again.

Little is known about the plot of the new season, and the trailer keeps things pretty vague, though the Duffer Brothers have suggested that the storyline will take place a year after the events of the last season—duh, we know when “Home Sweet Home” came out—and focus on the main characters’ puberty pangs. That said, according to Reddit sleuths who’ve obsessed over such details as the nuances of the new season’s poster art, it looks like Max and company are going to have to contend with demon rats no doubt released from the Upside Down.

See below for the new season’s trailer:

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YEG3bmU_WaI

Stranger Things 3 premieres globally on July 4.

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