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Reviewed by:
  • Pascal Quignard: vies, œuvres par Agnès Cousin de Ravel
  • Léa Vuong
Pascal Quignard: vies, œuvres. Par Agnès Cousin de Ravel. (Espaces littéraires.) Paris: L’Harmattan, 2017. 293 pp.

In this book, Agnès Cousin de Ravel provides a meticulously researched account of the life and work of Pascal Quignard. Cousin de Ravel’s biography is broadly chronological, starting with a first chapter on Quignard’s family origins, where she deploys an extremely detailed genealogical tree going back to Quignard’s ancestors living in pre-Revolutionary France. This chapter also pays close attention to Jean Bruneau, the writer’s uncle and a figure of the French Resistance, offering new details on a discreet yet compelling figure in Quignard’s texts. A second chapter looks closely at his childhood and teenage years through the various homes he inhabited during that period (1948–69). In this section, Cousin de Ravel sheds light on another haunting character from the writer’s childhood: Cäzilia Müller, his German-speaking nanny, who under the name ‘Mutti’ is a recurring presence in Quignard’s work. Chapters 3 and 4 focus on Quignard’s two careers, as editor and writer, showing how they first developed as complementary activities before a sudden rupture in 1994, when he abruptly resigned from his professional duties to devote himself to writing. On this subject, as in the rest of her book, Cousin de Ravel adheres to Quignard’s own version of events, but the relative brevity she uses here differs from the richness of detail in the rest of the book. The author is reliably scrupulous in her presentation of facts, people, and dates: in Chapter 3, she gives several portraits of Quignard’s mentors, collaborators, and friends, notably those who supported him throughout his career at the French publishing house Gallimard. Chapter 4 follows Quignard’s deepening engagement in multiple artistic endeavours, listing his many published texts, collaborations with other artists, participations in promotional events, and research proceedings around his work. Cousin de Ravel’s biographical account documents a slow progression from writing as a solitary experience to various forms of collaborations and stage performances, indirectly suggesting a possible new direction for his work. Ultimately, what matters most is what Cousin de Ravel leaves unsaid: what will come next, and the various ways in which Quignard will pursue his œuvre. As a biography on a living author, Cousin de Ravel’s book avoids hypothesis to focus on facts, and ends on an inevitably incomplete note. In addition, the author readily admits a lack of critical distance from her subject, recalling with evident pleasure the many instances when her life crossed with Quignard’s own. Yet, this book will surely prove to be a useful tool for future critical studies on the writer: Cousin de Ravel’s last chapter, a bibliographical account of works on and by Quignard, matches the rest of the book in its intensity and generosity of detail, successfully enlightening us further about one of the most enigmatic writers working in France today. [End Page 485]

Léa Vuong
The University of Sydney


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