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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Anonymous Celebrity

Ignácio de Loyola Brandão

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To purchase Anonymous Celebrity

Title: Anonymous Celebrity
Author: Ignácio de Loyola Brandão
Genre: Novel
Written: 2002 (Eng. 2009)
Length: 389 pages
Original in: Portuguese
Availability: Anonymous Celebrity - US
Anonymous Celebrity - UK
Anonymous Celebrity - Canada
  • Portuguese title: O Anônimo Célebre
  • Translated by Nelson Vieira

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Our Assessment:

B+ : entertaining study of obsession with fame taken to its extremes

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Digestivo Cultural . 18/8/2002 Marcelo Barbão

  From the Reviews:
  • "O texto de Loyola é sempre interessante e fácil de ler. Neste novo livro ele, ajudado ainda pelo tema ultra-modernoso, brinca com formatos novos de linguagem como o quase-dialeto dos e-mails. Outro aspecto interessante é o uso de recursos gráficos, o que mais uma vez nos relembra os experimentalismos inovadores dos seus romances mais famosos. O resultado é um excelente livro que supera em muito suas últimas e medianas obras como O Homem que Odiava Segunda-Feira e o Anjo do Adeus." - Marcelo Barbão. Digestivo Cultural

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The narrator of (most of) Anonymous Celebrity is obsessed with only one thing: fame. From the beginning he maintains:

     Better to have never been born than to go out into the streets unrecognized. What's the difference ?
     It's only others looking at me that gives me identity, certainty: I am, I exist, I am here.
       The world and the public must also see him a specific way, however:
     I don't insist that they love me, or even that they like me. It's not necessary. Just so long as they see me as a celebrity, that they recognize and admire me.
       He does not hide how desperately he craves celebrity. He has hundreds of CDs of live performances, on which he only listens to the applause -- "the most beautiful sound a human being can produce, the most beautiful sound in the world" -- and he feels: "I deserve this fanatical admiration. For the admirable work that is my life." But his life is a work in progress, devoted to this one goal: celebrity for the sake of celebrity.
       Anonymous Celebrity is, entirely, about his ceaseless quest to achieve (and hold onto) that quality of being a celebrity -- which means, of course, being recognized as a celebrity. Fame, he recognizes, relies entirely on artificiality: he is an actor -- in every sense -- and believes: "It would be so lovely if we could live our whole lives in character." Any real 'self' is meaningless -- and, in the quest for fame, largely useless. What is necessary is a public persona -- and one that continues to be of interest to the celebrity-obsessed masses.
       To this end of attaining celebrity he has any number of consultants, advising him how to maximize his public exposure and what he needs to know -- he has Consultants on Vapid Culture, a Terminologist, and so on. He wants to hire someone to invent something about him daily -- "Create news. Construct situations" -- which the press will then repeat. Truth and facts are irrelevant, and he doesn't have to be shown in a good light: getting attention is what counts.
       The media is the vital medium, of course -- and it is "a survival manual, a design for living. It tells you everything you need to know". Meanwhile, he is writing his own "Manual of Instructions -- a unique and original work of art", and Anonymous Celebrity is a reflection of that manual, its short chapters covering celebrity and how to achieve it from every possible and outrageous angle. Among the nicest touches are the chapters describing those who missed their chance at celebrity, or achieved it only in anonymity: the 'falling man' photographed as the World Trade Center collapsed, the woman who declined to pose for Manet and could have been the model for Olympia, the doomed-to-remain-undentified friends in a photograph of Hemingway, etc. (The best line, however, comes incidentally when someone quotes from a letter Dashiell Hammett wrote to Lillian Hellman, to which the response is: "Hellman. Like the mayonnaise ?")
       The narrator understands: "Life is a joke. A fraud. So why not invent my own past ?" In (re)creating himself he hopes to shape his own celebrity, and Anonymous Celebrity does contain what appears to be autobiographical detail -- including about some of the women in his life (he has been married several times), and even copies of letters from one of them. But how reliable a narrator can a man devoted to wholesale personal fraud be ? He doesn't mind the question: after all:
     The more paradoxical, incoherent, ambiguous, inconsistent, disconnected the life-story, the more curiosity it's going to arouse, and the more books are going to be written about it. I want to keep battalions of perplexed researchers working in shifts.
       So, readers should realize:
     The only solid fact you can count on is that my life is a fake. There's nothing real here. And if there was, I'd deny it.
       Aside from describing his claims to and attempts to achieve fame, his personal life, and his ideas as to how to further his celebrity there is also a bit of story to Anonymous Celebrity. The bane of the narrator's existence, called only LA -- the Lead Actor ("LA's name. The unspeakable.") -- is the star in whose shadow he lives, and their interaction drives some of the narrative.
       Eventually, too, Brandão presents a cruel twist to this anonymous narrator's attempts to achieve celebrity, making for the perfect end to this search for immortality and this longing to have one's name on everyone's lips.
       A horrific and yet fascinating catalogue of all aspects of celebrity -- one of the funniest chapters involves the ways in which the narrator could be branded, paid to wear and use every imaginable sort of product, right down to condoms ("you're going to have to show the brand to the woman, so she knows which you're endorsing, and you're going to commit to fucking four per day") --, Anonymous Celebrity is thoroughly entertaining. Though fairly long the short chapters, the exhaustiveness of the narrator's obsession, and the incredible variety keep things moving along nicely. And Brandão does have a few nice twists up his sleeve, which make for a surprisingly satisfying treatment of such vacuity.

- M.A.Orthofer, 27 July 2009

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Anonymous Celebrity: Reviews: Ignácio de Loyola Brandão: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Brazilian author Ignácio de Loyola Brandão was born in 1936.

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© 2009 the complete review

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