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