2 February 2021

Éric Chevillard: L'Œuvre posthume de Thomas Pilaster (1999)

L'Œuvre posthume de Thomas Pilaster is Éric Chevillard's ninth novel and was perhaps in part inspired by Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire (1962). Like a number of Chevillard novels, writing and the absurd hold a major place here.

The back cover contains a tongue-in-cheek illustration of what is in this book: seven previously unpublished texts by the well-loved, much lamented writer Thomas Pilaster (1934-97), whose life was brought a a brutal end. The book is edited and annotated by Pilaster's (only) friend, the poet Marc-Antoine Marson, who doesn't allow himself to lapse into hagiography. Also mentioned is that the books contains a few revelations about the role of Pilaster's wife Lise in his life and work. (Needless to say, both Thomas Pilaster and Marc-Antoine Marson are ficticious characters.)

Marson says he has known the frail Pilaster since his youth, and that the collected unpublished works here span forty-five years. Each text is prefaced by Marson's comments on them, and by the time he's more than halfway through it's obvious that he thinks they're all rubbish. In fact, Marson's friendship with Pilaster seems a very strange one because not only are his footnotes often (increasingly) critical of Pilaster, but he thinks he was a coward, heartless, greedy and possessed by an unbelievable vanity: 'Pilaster asleep, awake, he could only dream of glory'.

Marson was obviously in love with his wife Lise, who died tragically in a fall fifteen years before Pilaster died, and he was incapable of writing anything worthwhile after his wife's death. In fact, Lise (in Marson's résumé of Pilaster's life) is discovered to be rather more than Pilaster's muse at the end, and the impotent and reclusive 'writer' kills himself with his paper knife.

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