NARCISSISTS ANONYMOUS

WRITTEN BY JAKUTA ALIKAVAZOVIC
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Jakuta Alikavazovic is a French novelist. La blonde et le bunker (Editions de l’Olivier), her most recent book, was awarded the 2012 Prix Wepler – Mention speciale du Jury. In 2013 to 2014, she is in author-in-residence at Villa Medicis, in Rome.

The year 2007 was the first time that I ever made mention of a novel entitled Narcissists Anonymous, of which I revealed a few details: the author’s name (John Volstead) and the raging success that followed its publication, which enabled the aforementioned author to have a house built for himself in the heights of Paris and to never again have to pick up a pen. It still manages to rake in significant sums. To date, no one has tried to convert the word count into a financial figure; no one knows exactly how much each character is worth. The exercise would, however, allow the book to be floated on the stock market, freely exchangeable much as any other share, or rather, freely exchangeable as any other good or service, whereby letters would be synonymous with their weight in grams. A considerable success met with widespread acclaim; a megahit. In hindsight however, it may have been a fad; a sort of editorial flash in the pan, or a speculative bubble in the literature market. (It has even been reported that for a few months during the year that followed, young, spiritual and worldly people wandered about certain capital cities dressed as the novel’s hero – a good example of ego inflation).

Incidentally, the book, once touted as being “monumental”, and having once sold hundreds of millions of copies worldwide (translations included), is today nearly impossible to track down. The paradoxal law of bibliographilia makes no exception: the more a book is printed, the more readily it is at hand, and all the more difficult it becomes to find as time goes by. Large print runs and broad distribution decrease both the subjective and objective value of the object. People no longer get attached to the book itself. Given away, thrown out, left in the train before ending up on a bench, the low-quality copy does not stand the test of time. It greys, the ink blurs, it gets taken to the beach; the dog-eared pages feather, get wet, and dry again. The book finishes as it once started, as pulp, as earth.

Read the full feature in the AQUA issue

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