Report on Myself

Overview

Distinguished by the same charm and playful prose that helped make The Mystery Guest such a cult favorite with readers and reviewers, Report on Myself is the memoir that won Grégoire Bouillier the French Prix de Flore and universal acclaim.
Here, Bouillier tells the whole crazy story of his life, from his conception in wartime Algeria to his gritty Parisian boyhood at the mercy of his working-class bohemian parents.
With trademark pithy ...

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Overview

Distinguished by the same charm and playful prose that helped make The Mystery Guest such a cult favorite with readers and reviewers, Report on Myself is the memoir that won Grégoire Bouillier the French Prix de Flore and universal acclaim.
Here, Bouillier tells the whole crazy story of his life, from his conception in wartime Algeria to his gritty Parisian boyhood at the mercy of his working-class bohemian parents.
With trademark pithy vignettes, he illuminates his life through the stories of his four loves, beginning at age nine with the bourgeois Marie-Blanche, younger sister of his best friend, and ending with the relationship that nearly destroyed him, the aftermath of which he chronicled to such great effect in The Mystery Guest.
Shot through with indelible images, bad puns, and Bouillier’s gift for drawing meaning from the seemingly innocuous coincidences of daily life, Report on Myself turns on a literary revelation (in this case, The Odyssey) that helps Grégoire decode the patterns laid out by his life, while teaching us a thing or two about love and literature along the way.

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Editorial Reviews

Caroline Weber
Report on Myself is a study in raw angst and mortifying self-disclosure: a portrait of the artist as a lover who just can't catch a break. If all this sounds rather Gallic and hard to swallow, it's not. Bouillier's self-effacing shtick also includes a talent for wringing genuine humor from his many travails…Bouillier explores the depths of personal innocence and experience in this rarest of memoirs: an excruciating yet exquisite account of the manifold ways in which—to borrow a famous, non-French expression—love hurts.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Reminiscing about his loves and losses, writer Bouillier (The Mystery Guest) probes the murky shallows of his life in search of himself. Born in Algiers, he soon moves with his family to Aubervilliers, in France, where he almost dies from a staph infection that robs him of his sense of smell. Moving back and forth in time, Bouillier recalls his great loves, including his early crush on the sister of a friend. He experiences his first sexual stirrings when he glimpses his friend's mother rinsing herself at the bidet. The desire for sex then so consumes him that he engages in a pathetic episode with a prostitute and French kisses his mother (who responds eagerly) as his hand cups her buttocks. Along the way, Bouillier recounts his love of Frank Zappa, his feelings of alienation from the world, his parents' bohemian lifestyle and his use of the Odyssey as a code for understanding life. While his first book was a lyrical self-exploration, Bouillier here comes across as little more than self-indulgent. (Jan.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780618968619
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 1/20/2009
  • Edition description: None
  • Pages: 172
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

GRÉGOIRE BOUILLIER is the editor of a scientific magazine and author of The Mystery Guest. Originally a painter, he published his first book at age forty. He has one daughter and lives in Paris, France..

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Read an Excerpt

I HAD A HAPPY childhood.

Sunday afternoon, my mother bolts into our room while my brother and I are playing in our separate corners. "Children, do I love you?" Her voice is intense, her nostrils beyond belief. My brother answers straight on, but all I can muster with the confidence of my seven years is to hem and haw. I get what’s going on but at the same time dread what’s to follow. I end up murmuring, "Maybe you love us a little too much." My mother looks at me in horror. For a moment she’s at a loss, then moves to the window, shoves it open, and tries to throw herself from the sixth floor. Having heard the noise, my father catches her on the balcony after she has already stuck a leg into space. My mother yells, puts up a fight. Her screams echo through the courtyard. My father pulls her roughly backward and drags her inside like a sack. During the struggle, my mother’s head hits the wall and goes clunk. For a long time afterward, there’s a small bloodstain on the wall. One day I draw some circles around it with a black felt-tip pen and use it as a dart target; when I hit the bull’s-eye, I imagine for a brief instant finding again a way to speak without fear.

When my mother met my father, she was sixteen and he was eighteen. It was in 1956, during a surprise party at the house in Bois-Colombes into which my father’s family had moved after the war in ’39. My father brought the party to life by playing drums in a little jazz band made up of fellow law students. My mother helped him do the dishes; a year later they were married and they had my brother, whom they named Olivier for no particular reason I’m aware of.

My father barely had time to see his son; he had to do his compulsory military service. It wasn’t the best moment to be drafted: instead of the obligatory eighteen months, what wasn’t yet called the Algerian War forced him to wear a uniform for nearly three years. He was quartered at Tizi Ouzou, the capital of Algeria’s Great Kabylia region, where, according to him, not much happened.

Getting separated from her husband so soon upset my mother. She quickly made up her mind: to abandon her baby at her in-laws’ and go join her lover in Algeria. Such boldness wasn’t common to most seventeen-yearold girls of the time.

Down there, they loved each other. And they were more —or should I say three times more?—than happy to do so because an intern at the hospital in Tizi Ouzou fell under my mother’s not unsubstantial charms; soon he’d join them in their romps, and in the midst of such threesomes, I was conceived.

"You’re a love child," my mother would repeat to me throughout my childhood, without my knowing what it meant and whether it was something to worry about. In public she loved to mention my olive skin and the fact that there was no Bouillier in me. Much later, when I asked, she revealed the circumstances under which I was conceived and ended up saying that she’d read in a magazine that when two men ejaculate in a woman’s vagina, instead of competing, their sperm cells fuse to fertilize the egg and give birth to a mutant.

She also told me that my father had great hard-ons and was a homosexual; later she claimed she’d said that to please me.

My mother was acting true to form; she wasn’t yet twelve when her brother, who was two years older, stood up from the table and blurted at the father who was reprimanding him for some petty offense, "You’re not my father!" In fact, he was their uncle; he’d secretly replaced their father in his sister-in-law’s bed after their father had disappeared during the beginning of World War II. My mother, who was born at the end of 1939, hardly had a chance to know the man who’d given her life. She must have sensed it vaguely when she decided to go to Algeria to be with a man who himself had left for war right after the birth of his child. And just as a brother had stood in for another as her father, it was in the arms of two different men that she became a mother for the second time.

From brother to brother, my granny remained with the Pérards, and she didn’t have to change names to keep appearing wonderfully married in the eyes of the world. All in all, it was kept in the family, and administratively it simplified things. Nevertheless, all traces of the one who disappeared had to be erased, which must have taken a certain effort, since it involved silencing a brother, a husband, and a father at the same time. The children were raised according to this little scheme.

For years on end, none of them suspected the truth except the elder, certain of whose confused memories couldn’t be manipulated. In the case of my mother, she still remembers that discovering her life was built on a sham came as "a shock." In saying so, she can look me in the eye without getting flustered.

As for my granddad, he was an affable man, and he adored his little bastard bitch who followed him everywhere like a shadow. He dubbed her Satellite in honor, he claimed, of the Soviet satellite Soyuz, which means "union"; genitally speaking, this was pretty appropriate, and twenty times a day he could call the truth by its name, which he kept on a leash without anyone suspecting—not even him. When he shouted "Satellite," it came out "Slattern."

In Old French, Pérard means "bad father."

As for Bouillier, it means "small birch forest." Thus I know what kind of fiber I’m made of, which not everyone can say.

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