Read “When I Look at a Strawberry, I Think of a Tongue” by Édouard Levé in The Paris Review.
When I was young, I thought Life: A User’s Manual would teach me how to live and Suicide: A User’s Manual how to die. I don’t really listen to what people tell me. I forget things I don’t like. I look down dead-end streets. The end of a trip leaves me with a sad aftertaste the same as the end of a novel. I am not afraid of what comes at the end of life. I am slow to realize when someone mistreats me, it is always so surprising: evil is somehow unreal. When I sit with bare legs on vinyl, my skin doesn’t slide, it squeaks. I archive. I joke about death. I do not love myself. I do not hate myself. My rap sheet is clean. To take pictures at random goes against my nature, but since I like doing things that go against my nature, I have had to make up alibis to take pictures at random, for example, to spend three months in the United States traveling only to cities that share a name with a city in another country: Berlin, Florence, Oxford, Canton, Jericho, Stockholm, Rio, Delhi, Amsterdam, Paris, Rome, Mexico, Syracuse, Lima, Versailles, Calcutta, Bagdad….
About Édouard Levé
Édouard Levé (January 1, 1965 – October 15, 2007, Paris) was a French writer, artist and photographer. Levé’s first book, Oeuvres (2002), is an imaginary list of more than 500 non-existent conceptual artworks by the author, although some of the ideas were taken up as the premises of later projects actually completed by Levé (for example the photography books Amérique and Pornographie).
Levé traveled in the United States in 2002, writing Autoportrait and taking the photographs for the series Amérique, which pictures small American towns named after cities in other countries. Autoportrait consists entirely of disconnected, unparagraphed sentences of the authorial speaker’s assertions and self-description, a “collection of fragments” by a “literary cubist.”
His final book, Suicide, although fictional, evokes the suicide of his childhood friend 20 years earlier, which he had also mentioned in “a shocking little addendum, tucked nonchalantly…into Autoportrait.” He delivered the manuscript to his editor ten days before he took his own life at 42 years old.