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Philippe Sollers

Born near Bordeaux in 1936, Philippe Sollers made his brilliant entry into the Parisian intellectual scene in 1958-1960 with back-to-back publications and the founding of the journal Tel Quel, destined to become the arbiter of French thought and theory for the next two decades. A leading exponent of the avant-garde, Sollers wrote novels reputed as “difficult” and “experimental” during the sixties and seventies, then began writing novels in what has been called a “readable” style with the publication in 1983 of the best-selling Femmes. He continues to publish novels as well as essays, essay-books, and extended interviews on many topics, in art, literature, music, photography, biography, and social history. A Sollers publication is always an event, and he remains one of the most widely known authors in France. He lives in Paris with his wife, Julia Kristeva.

Sollers is an innovator, a versatile, controversial thinker and vastly productive writer who uses the genre of the popular novel to convey his philosophy. A person of vast erudition, he has chosen to express himself via a verbal art unique to him. He has said that the novel is the continuation of thought by other means, modifying a familiar quotation from the war theoretician Clausewitz, and he believes that the truth is best spoken in a work of fiction. The talky messages, the ideas, the intellectual exchange with the knowing reader, the omnipresent literary allusions are paramount; plot and character are typically in service to the ideas. From his self-defined stance as a marginalized thinker on humanity’s behalf, he is a gadfly who pricks the conscience of his country, and these urgent criticisms of society and its ills find expression in a re-invented French literary language.

A Permanent Passion

That month, November or December, I had actually decided to end it all. I had Betty’s revolver there on my right, I would look at it from time to time. I won’t forget that black stain in the drawer, the window open onto the wet courtyard, the narrow, badly furnished room, the obese, senile landlord coming in to shout in my ears, every other day, that I had again forgotten the light when I went out.


The Brooklyn Rail

JUNE 2023

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