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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction



Edouard Levé

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To purchase Newspaper

Title: Newspaper
Author: Edouard Levé
Genre: Fiction
Written: 2004 (Eng. 2015)
Length: 124 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Newspaper - US
Newspaper - UK
Newspaper - Canada
Journal - Canada
Journal - France
  • French title: Journal
  • Translated by Jan Steyn and Caitlin Dolan-Leach

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Our Assessment:

B : clever variation on documentary fiction

See our review for fuller assessment.

  • "Journal is punishing -- a litany of gruesome crimes, minute analyses of sales figures, weather reports, and job listings. This relentlessness is also sometimes very funny, revealing the absurdity of culture industry clichés." - Hannah Tennant-Moore, n+1 (14/6/2011)

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:

       Newspaper is a fictionalized documentary work, a stripped-down version -- in its whole and in its parts -- of the generic 'newspaper'.
       Levé divides the work into newspaper-type sections, the chapters headlined: 'International', 'Society, 'Other News', 'Economics', 'Science and Technology', 'Classifieds', 'Weather', 'Sports', 'Arts and Culture', 'Entertainment Guide', and 'Television'. Each chapter consists of dozens of real, or at least real-sounding, pieces similar to those that might appear in an actual newspaper. There are no feature pieces here, however, only small, summary ones, as all the news is presented in bite-size pieces. More significantly, the reports are all stripped of identifying markers: there are no personal names, places are not revealed. (Only very rarely is there reference to an existing entity -- and even then it is only umbrella organizations such as the World Trade Organization or the Olympics.)
       Thus, a typical 'story' might be, in its entirety:

In a small country recently on the receiving end of a superpower's retaliatory air raids, an earthquake has caused approximately fifty death. A global humanitarian program has reported one hundred people missing. The superpower has continued its air strikes in the east of this small country, where rebel fighters can still be found. Over five thousand soldiers are involved in the operation.
       Even as the stories are often very specific, everything that is presented is entirely generic: at least potentially everyday and every- (or any)where.
       Like the 'real' news, the level of detail gives the illusion of significance and tangibility; stripped of its markers, however, a fundamental vacuity is revealed:
With a contribution of over four billion monetary units, of which two billion have been spent this year, the conference on reconstruction has achieved one of its primary objectives: to assure the interim government that donor countries support it.
       It extends to -- and is perhaps most pronounced -- in the death notices in the classifieds:
A figure of the contemporary art world is mourned by his colleagues. This esteemed man was secretary of a playwright society, a member of an international arts criticism association, an organizer of international exhibitions, and a veteran of the last war, in which he served as a volunteer in the military intelligence network. A religious ceremony will be held in his honor, where there will be a condolence book for attendees to sign.
       Extending to the banality of business-news announcements and sports scores, many of the Newspaper entries are almost indistinguishable from actual newspaper reports:
The national team has won the four by seven and a half kilometer relay in the women's winter biathlon world cup. It is the team's first win of the season.
       The entertainment guide, classifieds, and TV listings, in particular, seem in large part like they could easily have just been lifted from an actual newspaper -- a reminder of how we largely are content and used to consuming 'news' that is entirely surface-information.
       It's a curious exercise, but reasonably effective. In some of what it allows Levé to slip in -- spins on reality or art -- it's also quite funny. Newspaper is a somewhat one-note example of his subversive-serious art; less personal than Autoportrait or Works, it lacks some of the appealing immediacy of those works. Nevertheless, it is more than just a clever-in-theory concept-piece. Levé has fashioned a readable work and, by removing all identifying attributes, also forces readers to (re)consider how they read and consumes news.

- M.A.Orthofer, 9 March 2015

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Newspaper: Reviews: Other books by Edouard Levé under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       French author Édouard Levé was born in 1965 and committed suicide in 2007.

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© 2015 the complete review

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