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Journey through falsehood

Pierre Bayard says he has invented a new kind of writing. Is he a genius or dinner party contrarian, wonders Wendell Steavenson

How to Talk About Places You’ve Never Been: On the Importance of Armchair Travel

by Pierre Bayard (Bloomsbury, £18.99)

How to Talk about Places You’ve Never Been is the second book in a trilogy by Pierre Bayard. “I like trilogies,” he told me when we met for coffee, smiling a little at this misdirection. Bayard does not write novels; he is an academic, a professor of French literature at the University of Paris 8. He has written 19 books on literature and other cultural loiterings, several of them triplets. Bayard is also a psychoanalyst. This is a dangerous mix. Fact, fiction, criticism, literary theory and the musings of kaleidoscopic perception. I had read his book over the weekend. It was like reading a painting by Wassily Kandinsky. I ordered a fizzy mineral water to clear my head and asked him an ordinary question.

“What will the next book in this series be about?” Bayard would not tell me. The first was entitled, How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read. Naturally I haven’t read it, but nonetheless I found it an interesting discourse on the discourse of discourse.

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About Prospect Magazine

In Prospect’s April issue: Sam Tanenhaus profiles Donald Trump, the leading candidate for the Republican Party Presidential nomination and asks if Trump makes it to the Oval Office, what would he do? Stephen Glover, examines what is happening at the Guardian as the newspaper looks to cut costs. Ferdinand Mount says Tony Blair transformed Britain but he should have cared more about the Labour Party. Also in this issue: Richard Dearlove, the former head of MI5, says that Brexit would not damage the UK’s security and Christopher de Bellaigue questions whether France’s clampdown on radicals is having the right effect. Plus Miranda France looks at the legacy of Don Quixote and the Duel asks: “Should the Church of England be disestablished”?
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