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The Suicide Experiment: Hervé Guibert's AIDS Video, La Pudeur ou l'impudeur Ross Chambers IN CYRIL COLLARD'S FILM, Les Nuits fauves, there is a moment in which Jean, the bisexual person with AIDS (PWA) played by Collard, is meeting his girlfriend Laura's mother for the first time.1 The meeting takes place in a fast-food restaurant, where Jean proves unable to stomach his hamburger and Coke. The mother is amused: you don't eat or drink, she says, what do you run on, then? "Je marche à ΓΑΖΤ" is Jean's response—and the mother, immediately scandalized, beats a hasty and angry retreat. But what exactly is the breach of decorum here? Why should the claim to survive, albeit by means other than those of "normal, healthy" folks, be so provocative? Should the PWA just succumb and quietly disappear? What is the rage de vivre that resists the fear, anxiety, contempt or resentment that PWAs may inspire? These are some of the questions that energize Collard's film. Similar issues are raised—such, at least, is the premise of this paper— by a more rhetorically courteous but nonetheless self-consciously disturbing document of AIDS witness, Hervé Guibert's video AIDS diary, La Pudeur ou l'impudeur—a title that specifically poses the question of decorum in connection with a thematics of survival.2 One could fairly claim, indeed, that such issues are at the heart of the now, alas, proliferating , genre of autobiographical AIDS witness in general. Survival has to be chosen, and achieved, because its only alternative is suicide. But there is survival and survival; and a certain gamble with suicide, Guibert's work suggests, defines the writing of AIDS witness as a means to achieve, through carefully dosed provocation, a calculus of pudicity and impudicity—another form of survival, one that defeats death itself, in the afterlife of a text. Thus, "je marche au suicide" might be Guibert's version of "Je marche à ΓΑΖΤ." But let me start again. 72 Fall 1997 Chambers The impetus behind witnessing narrative is the desire to live to tell the tale. But witnessing also implies a second kind of faith in survival: that of the tale itself, beyond the personal death of its teller. This is a social survival , transcending the personal lifespan of the narrative's author. In the case of AIDS witness in the autobiographical mode, in which living to tell the tale implies telling the tale of one's dying, these two forms of survival become melded into a single preoccupation, since surviving to tell the story makes sense only to the extent that it is predicated on the survival of the story, whose narrating instance will give a social future to the deceased author. The writing thus tends to have the temporal structure of the future perfect tense (even more appropriately called "futur antérieur" in French): the personal survival of the author, however limited in time that survival may be, will have been a token of textual survival that the survival of the text, after its author's death, will retrospectively validate. But AIDS is both "the disease of a thousand rehearsals"3 for death and one in which chance is often paramount: survival is not a given. When it became apparent early in 1996 that tritherapy (the use of a cocktail of nucleosides and protease-inhibitors) was proving efficacious, the government advisory board in France (Conseil National du Sida) announced that it would recommend selection by lottery of the first patients to receive treatment. There was instant uproar: the stated reason for the lottery was that production of these drugs is slow and the pharmaceutical companies would serve the American market first, leaving only a trickle for countries like France; but since the cost of treatment is astronomical, the suspicion was that the lottery idea was a way of econoizing on costs. Of course the politicians backed away from the whole idea, and to my knowledge (in May 1996) no decision has been made about how to deliver tritherapy to French AIDS patients. This perhaps means that in the end it will be for individual patients and their physicians to vie with one another, as...


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