Levé was self-taught as an artist and studied business at the elite École supérieure des sciences économiques et commerciales. He began painting in 1991. Levé made abstract paintings but abandoned the field (claiming to have burned most of his paintings) and took up color photography upon his return from an influential two-month trip to India in 1995.
Books and photographs
Levé's first book, Oeuvres (2002), is an imaginary list of more than 500 books by the author, not actually written, although some of the items were taken up as the premises of later books actually written and published by Levé (for example the photography books Amérique and Pornographie).
Levé traveled in the United States in 2002, writing Autoportrait and taking the photographs for the series Amérique, which pictures small American towns named after cities in other countries. Autoportrait consists entirely of disconnected, unparagraphed sentences of the authorial speaker's assertions and self-description, a "collection of fragments" by a "literary cubist." Zadie Smith has admired the "adolescent aesthetic" of this work, its "mixture of thoughtfulness and self-regard, honest interrogation and mere posing."
His final book, Suicide, although fictional, evokes the suicide of his childhood friend 20 years earlier, which he had also mentioned in "a shocking little addendum, tucked nonchalantly...into Autoportrait." He delivered the manuscript to his editor ten days before he took his own life at 42 years old.
Reception and influence
A chapter in Hervé Le Tellier’s novel Enough About Love pays homage to Edouard Levé, who appears as the character Hugues Léger, and to his book Autoportrait, the introspective and fragmentary style of which is imitated in an extract of a book titled Definition.
Gérard Gavarry’s book Expérience d'Edward Lee, Versailles (P.O.L., 2009) takes as its inspiration one hundred photos by Levé.
Awards and honors
Works by Levé
- Photography series
- 1999: Homonymes (portraits of ordinary people with the same names as famous people)
- 1999: Rêves Reconstitués
- 2000-2002: Angoisse, Philéas Fogg (photographs taken around the city of Angoisse (Dordogne), whose name in French means "anguish")
- 2001-2002: Actualités (staged and anonymized photos playing on the stereotypes of press photography)
- 2002: Pornographie (clothed models in pornographic positions)
- 2003: Rugby (models in street clothing posed in rugby positions sans ball)
- 2003: Quotidien (newspaper or magazine photographs, restaged with actors who are anonymized and in everyday clothing against a black background)
- 2003: Reconstitutions, Philéas Fogg, ISBN 2-914498-13-6 (bringing together the restaged photographs of Actualités and Quotidien)
- 2006: Fictions, P.O.L ("enigmatic" groups of black-clad people against a black background )
- 2006: Amérique, Léo Scheer, ISBN 2-7561-0064-1 (photographs from American towns sharing names with world cities)
- Other books
- 2002: Oeuvres, P.O.L
- 2004: Journal, P.O.L (playing on journalistic stereotypes in the fashion of Actualités)
- 2005: Autoportrait, P.O.L; English translation 2012, Dalkey Archive Press, ISBN 1-56478-707-9
- 2008: Suicide, P.O.L; English translation 2011, Dalkey Archive Press, ISBN 1-56478-628-5
- Boris Daireaux, "Edouard aux mains d’argent(ique)," Evene.fr, November 2006
- Jacques Morice, "L'écrivain et photographe Edouard Levé est mort," Télérama, October 22, 2007
- Hugo Wilcken, "Happiness, Sadness, Death," The Berlin Review of Books, March 8, 2010
- Zadie Smith, "New Books," Harper's Magazine, May 2011, pp. 67-70.
- "When I Look at a Strawberry, I Think of a Tongue," Paris Review, Spring 2011, No. 196
- Chad W. Post (April 10, 2013). "2013 Best Translated Book Award: The Fiction Finalists". Three Percent. Retrieved April 11, 2013.
- Magdalena Segertová, "La photo de presse et ses stéréotypes selon Edouard Levé," Czech Radio, November 28, 2003
- Bernd Schwandt, "Group Photography as a Means of Communicating with Groups," in Fine and Schwandt (eds.), Applied communication in organizational and international contexts, Röhrig Universitätsverlag, 2008, pp. 31f.
- Galerie Loevenbruck (Levé's artistic representation): Photographs, biography, books, reviews and press
- Editions P.O.L. (Levé's publisher), including a video of the author reading from Œuvres
- Written works online: Excerpt from Lorin Stein's English translation of Autoportrait (Paris Review)
- Photo series Amérique
- Obituary notices: by Philippe Lançon, Libération, October 17, 2007; by Jacques Morice, Télérama, October 22, 2007
- Adaptations/homages by other artists: Autoportrait(s), an online graphic design tribute to Levé (Grand Prix ETPA 2010) by Anne Gardes; CQPVD, ou Ce que parler veut dire, a 2008 theatrical work by Jade Duviquet, adapted in part from Levé's Autoportrait