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Weiser is an obscure early-twentieth-century philosopher, an Austrian Jew, known for one work only. The narrator of this "biography," who has already edited some of the philosopher's letters, is still trying to find traces of the man. While investigating his subject, he identifies himself with Weiser, actually becomes Weiser. Obviously, Weiser was not interested in a philosophical career; he thought life was to be lived. The entire novel is of course a mystification, and Denis Lancry is much more detailed in his description of Weiser's and the narrator's vitalist behavior, in their hetero- and homosexual debauchery, than in his philosophical asides and his approach to the Nazi and Jewish context.

Notwithstanding Lancry's indulging in sexual excesses, his novel is of some literary interest because of its reflexivity and its form. The problem of biography writing is one of the central issues. Throughout the novel the narrator wonders to what extent one can follow or even live the life of somebody else, and to what extent a biographical representation can be truthful. He even goes so far as to say that he is more Weiser than Weiser could ever have been himself: he is all the consecutive Weisers at the same time.

This is mirrored in the book's form. Lancry writes short passages; the different (often incomplete) fragments are juxtaposed rather arbitrarily, and language is used coordinatively, and in series of nouns and adjectives, so as to immerse the reader. It is a kaleidoscopic approach, a mosaic, destined to generate an overall atmosphere by the time the reader finishes the novel.

Ludo Stynen
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Author:Stynen, Ludo
Publication:World Literature Today
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 22, 1994
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