10 April 2018

Grégoire Bouillier: Rapport sur moi | Report on Myself (2003)

Grégoire Bouillier's Rapport sur moi (translated as Report on Myself) is certainly a remarkable book. The back cover of this poche edition claims it's not an autobiography, nor a novel, nor autofiction, but something between 'survival manual' and 'miniature Odyssey', in fact a new genre in the contemporary literary landscape. Fair words, but they butter no parsnips with me: this is a part-autobiography, so let's not pretend.

All the same, it's an interesting autobiography as we have quite a family here. Grégoire is born in Algeria, where his parents were at the time (1960) because his father was doing his service militaire there. But, as this is the time of free love and virtually anything goes, an Algerian friend of his mother and father, with whom his mother was having sex at the same time, as a threesome, may be his 'real' father.

This book is so full of coincidences, games with numbers, speculations, possibilities, with Bouillier playing his particular tune, that it can't fail to delight and annoy many people, as witnessed by the numerous positive and negative reviews it's received. It won the Flore 2002 title, though, so does it merit such a mixed reaction?

Maybe yes, maybe no. Introspective this book certainly is, but so what: all autobiographies are. But the facts don't cohere, the narrative jumps all over the place, mixing up particular periods on Bouillier's life, and it is impossible to see any sequence, the reader just sees a series of events. Humorous it definitely is though, as perhaps best seen in the description of two of the women the narrator lived with: Laurence the nymphomanic, and Fabienne in San Francisco, who took him on a nightmare drive to Mexico.

At 127 pages, Rapport sur moi is a very brief autobiographical work. But then fifteen years later Grégoire Bouillier publishes Dossier M, which is in two volumes,  each containing more than 800 pages. Shall I be reading them? The temptation is there, but I've read a few pages via Amazon, and I think I'll give them a miss.

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