Article sur Kamikaze dans The Sunday Telegraph - 9 avril 2000
Diary of a real nobody captivates Paris
by Julian Coman
A self-obsessed diarist who has published 3,915 pages on the subject of his own life has become a cult success in Paris bookshops.
The author of the first French literary work to outdo Marcel Proust, at least in terms of length, is Marc-Edouard Nabe, a struggling 41-year-old writer whose early literary efforts were greeted with total indifference by the French reading public.
Despairing of ever making his mark, Mr Nabe abandonned fiction in the early eighties. He then began a meticulous hand-written account of each day of his life, recording in excruciating detail his experiences among a circle of Parisian friends. The latest volume of collected entries, entitled Kamikaze, appeared last week at a length of 1,500 pages. It is accompanied by a 150-page index of names.
To his astonishment, this monumental exercise in navel-garing has finally secured Mr Nabe's literary reputation, gaining him a front-page review in Le Figaro, glowing reports in France's top literary magazines and prime-time television interviews.
A chic publishing house has now undertaken to provide Mr Nabe with a monthly retainer of 1500 livres for as long as he continues to give away his own secrets along with those of his wife and friends. The author has also been provided with a secretary as well as a team of archivists to sift through the hundreds of diaries that fill a small room in his flat.
Before producing Kamikaze, Mr Nabe spent six months rereading his diary entries from 1988 to 1990, which were then photocopied and sent on to his publisher. He claims not to know how to use a computer.
The director of Editions du Rocher, Jean-Paul Bertrand, explained his fervent patronage of a project which has so far cost him 100,000 livres and wich, given the author's age, is likely to run for at least another 30 years. "Marc-Edouard Nabe is one of the most gifted writers of his generation. His remarkable diary is an act of witness to our epoch."
Kamikaze begins with the publication of a letter from a former girlfriend of Mr Nabe, who testily announces that their affair is at an end. It concludes with a minute-by-minute account of the birth of his son Alexandre which he concedes his wife found rather intrusive.
"The doctor asked me if I wanted to cut the umbilical cord," Mr Nabe said, "but I was to busy writing down what was happening."
Such devoties to art above life has meant that, after two decades of unhappy obscurity, Mr Nabe has now become famous on the street of Paris. He told The Sunday Telegraph : "My work seems to have become a kind of phenomenon. People now stop me to ask if I will give them objects and clothes wich appear in the diaries. One woman wanted my hat and someone even asked me for a bra belonging to my wife Helene."
But many of the personalities who regularly appear in Kamikaze are less happy at their new-found and unsought notoriety. The sexual peccadillos, lies and humiliations of the author's friends have all been mercilessly recorded by Mr Nabe for the rest of France to read about. The more successful he has become, the more friends he has lost. Since the publication of Kamikaze, the phone has barely stopped ringing.
"Helene was furious when she realised that the diaries were actually going to be published," he said. "And it is true that I write about the most intimate gynecological details of her pregnancy. For her it's like living on intimate terms with a paparazzi. "Some of the people I have been closest to just won't speak to me again. But I don't regret anything. People are too fragile. They call me traitor but all I do is show them how they have betrayed themselves"
The one thing that does worry Mr Nabe is the state of his own mental health as be continues to use his life as an excuse for publishing books. "I know I'm screwing my life up," he said. "Literature has invaded me and now I'm making everything and everyone around me a word of literature. The whole of life is becoming like a dream."
But there seems to be no prospect of him calling a halt to what has become a highbrow soap opera for a devoted French audience that is eager for further revelation.
"This is the only way I can leave the past behind", he said. "Everytime I publish a new volume, I feel years younger. It's as if I've finally unburdened myself of everything I've written about and turned it into art."
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