Vertige des Auteurs

I enjoyed Georges Flipo's Le Vertige des auteurs. The anti-hero, Sylvain Vasseur, is a middle-aged functionary forced into early retirement. Vasseur has very simple tastes. Until the day of his retirement, he shows interest only in cycling, sex with his long-suffering wife, beer drinking and watching the Tour de France. At his retirement party, his boss, Delorgey, asks about his future plans. To Vasseur, who worships men of power, these activities seem suddenly too small. Eager to please his idol, who assumes he will do something artistic, Vasseur proclaims that he will write. This boast becomes the impetus for a new career as a writer.

Vasseur's ex-boss, eager to increase his own prestige, uses his publicity department to promote his hapless protege. The result is a comedy both pitiless and funny. The anti-hero, Sylvain Vasseur, does write elegant business letters, but his talent goes no further. This fact is completely lost on his boss, too concerned with money and prestige to have developed artistic tastes of his own.

Flipo dramatizes the worst-case scenario for wannabe writers. Imagine a man determined to sacrifice everything for art, (love, friends, money, success, health) but who lacks the wit to abandon his hopeless crusade before it destroys him. Vasseur is fated to fail by his vanity and self-absorption. He hurts his allies and ignores all advice and warning signs. When we read of his suffering, near the end of the book, it is well-deserved. I will not reveal the twist ending but will say it satisfies, prepared for in advance yet still surprising.

I hope to read more books by this master of style and ideas.

Happy reading.

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