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Pierre Guyotat: Literature as Total Artwork

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The French writer Pierre Guyotat (1940-2020) is one of the greatest authors in twentieth French Literature, with a unique voice. He died in Paris through last Friday night. As Azzedine Alaïa wrote (Pierre Guyotat, La matière de nos oeuvres), Guyotat “ennobled French language: with his unique writing he achieves to speak of things we don’t speak of with an enormous beauty. His writing is powerful, subtle, and different from any other writing. It is the French language in all its splendour: at the same time, popular and elaborated.”

An incandescent writing, echoing Baudelaire and Céline, by a writer and artist (in his youth, Guyotat hesitated from being a writer or a painter, and, in his last years, he divided his work between writing and drawing), with a great passion for music, painting, cinema (Dreyer, Rossellini, Buñuel or Pasolini, for example), theatre, and dance, in a body of work in constant movement/circulation, renewing continuously the French language, a body of work starting from “literature as total artwork” and connecting it to the other arts.

In 2018, Guyotat won the Prix Femina for lifetime achievement, and Idiotie, his last book, was awarded the Prix Medicis (a prize he had been refused with Éden, Éden, Éden, 1970, which caused a great scandal and was banned in a triple interdiction, in spite of the prefaces by Barthes, Leiris and Sollers, an article by Foucault and a petition in his defense, and after the great impression caused by his previous book, Tomb for 500,000 Soldiers,1967, “haunted” by his experience in the Algerian War).

We can listen to an interview Pierre Guyotat gave to radio France Inter, on the occasion of the publishing of Idiotie, conducted by writer and journalist Laure Adler, who participated in LEFFEST’s international Symposium “Can art still be subversive today?”.
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