‘The Author and Me’ by Eric Chevillard – Trout Amandine vs. Cauliflower au Gratin

‘The Author and Me’ by Eric Chevillard    (2013)  –  146 pages    Translated by Jordan Stump

 

theauthorandmeAt its best, ‘The Author and Me’ is a hysterical inspired rant for the delights of trout amandine and against the horrors of cauliflower au gratin.

It begins when the waitress commits the heinous crime of serving our narrator, instead of the trout amandine he has ordered, a plateful of cauliflower au gratin.  Even worse, the cauliflower au gratin secretly contains potatoes.

“You’re licking your chops for a trout and you end up mired in cauliflower.” 

Whenever the narrator, or sometimes the French author, starts a diatribe against cauliflower au gratin, this novel is hilarious, sure to put a smile on your face.  This is comic stuff of the first order.

“On the one hand, the loveliest fish of the rivers; on the other, the drabbest vegetable of the garden.” 

“On the one hand, a dish of great elegance, worthy of the finest tables; on the other, something straight out of a lunchroom, the mortar ladled out by a fat paw between catechism and math class.”

I mention both the author and the narrator, because both are present in the novel.  It starts out with the author explaining in the footnotes how his views differ from those of the narrator. Later the author worries that he might be confused for the narrator, so by authorial fiat he turns the narrator into an ant, so no one will mistake the two of them.  The author will make damn sure this is his novel, not the narrator’s  There is a lot of metafiction going on here.

All of this metafictional stuff is somewhat interesting but not as much fun as the cauliflower au gratin. ‘The Author and Me’ is wildly uneven, the peaks so high, the valleys so low.

Whenever Chevillard gets away from the relative merits of food, things tend to get a little murky.  Sometimes the joke here seems to be that the author is punishing the reader.  Footnotes which are an integral part of the story that go on for more than thirty pages printed in the tiniest print possible.  Terribly disjointed story lines that have no reference to what has gone before.  These are authorial jokes I want no part of.

Buried within that thirty page tiny-print footnote, I found the following gem of wisdom.

“There’s always a touch of compassion in a woman’s love for a man – good thing too let me say in passing: if you had to be loveable to find love, the human race would never proliferate so freely.”    

Let me just say that if I were the author of ‘The Author and Me’, I would not have buried such lines in an interminable footnote.  Still even these lines do not totally redeem this novel for me.

‘The Author and Me’ was a finalist for the Best Translated Fiction award for 2015.

 

Grade:   B-

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5 responses to this post.

  1. I’ve never read Chevillard. In France he’s published by a publisher specialised on experimental fiction. It’s not my cup of tea so I try to avoid them.
    The cauliflower thing sounds funny though.

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    • H[ Emma,
      The heavy use of footnotes was experimental and for me the most annoying, because the footnotes were printed in such small print. I found the confusion between the narrator and author kind of fun. And like you say the food criticisms were very funny.

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  2. I tend to enjoy experimental more than many, but the line about love slightly bothers me. Could the same not be said of men’s love for women? It suggests women love differently to men, in a compassionate way, which seems a rather sexist conceit.

    A definitely maybe, since the concept at least sounds fun. Nice review, even though you didn’t like it you brought out enough that I could see I might.

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    • Hi Max,
      I don’t see having too much compassion as being a problem for most men. I suppose that might be a sexist attitude. However I think women take a more realistic view of marriage, and that might mean feeling sorry for the poor guy.
      My problem with the novel may be the publisher. About half the novel is footnotes, one of them thirty pages long, and the footnotes were printed in this excruciatingly small print that required my use of a magnifying glass. I don’t know if the author or the publisher was trying to punish me for reading the book.

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