Gilbert Adair

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Gilbert Adair
BornDecember 29, 1944
United Kingdom
DiedDecember 8, 2011(2011-12-08) (aged 66)
United Kingdom
OccupationNovelist, film critic
GenreFiction, non-fiction, film criticism

Gilbert Adair (29 December 1944 – 8 December 2011)[1] was a Scottish novelist, poet, film critic and journalist.[2][3] He was critically most famous for the "fiendish"[4] translation of Georges Perec's postmodern novel A Void, in which the letter e is not used,[4] but was more widely known for the films adapted from his novels, including Love and Death on Long Island (1997) and The Dreamers (2003).[2]

Life and career[edit]

Adair was born in Edinburgh[a] but from 1968 to 1980 he lived in Paris.[2] His early works of fiction included Alice Through the Needle's Eye (following Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass) and Peter Pan and the Only Children[6] (following Peter and Wendy). He won the Author's Club First Novel Award in 1988 for his novel The Holy Innocents. From 1992 to 1996 he wrote the "Scrutiny" column for The Sunday Times. During 1998 and 1999 he was the chief film critic of The Independent on Sunday, where in 1999 he also wrote a year-long column called "The Guillotine".[7]

In 1995 he won the Scott Moncrieff Translation Prize for his book A Void, which is a translation of the French book La Disparition by Georges Perec. The original book contains no instances of the letter e; Adair translated it with the same limitation. His works are compared to those of Julian Barnes, A. S. Byatt and Patrick Gale.[by whom?] His book Flickers: A History of the Cinema in 100 Images was admired by David Foster Wallace.[8]

The film Love and Death on Long Island (1997), directed by Richard Kwietniowski, was based on his 1990 novel of the same name. The film The Dreamers (2003) directed by Bernardo Bertolucci, with a script by Adair, was based on his book The Holy Innocents, which Adair revised and re-released under the same title as the film. Adair collaborated on the screenplays of several Raúl Ruiz films: The Territory (1981), Klimt (2006) and A Closed Book (2010).[9]

Adair himself was homosexual, though he rarely talked about the matter, not wishing to be labelled. "Obviously there are gay themes in a lot of my novels," he said in a recent interview, "but I really wouldn't be happy to be thought of as a 'Gay Writer' ... Being gay hasn't defined my life."[10] At the end of his life, he lived in London. Adair died from a brain haemorrhage, 13 months after suffering a stroke which blinded him on December 8 2011, twenty-one days away from his 67th birthday.[11] He was writing a stage version of Love and Death on Long Island, which is being developed by producers New Gods and Heroes, at the time of his death.[2]


  • A Night at the Pictures (with Nick Roddick) (1985)
  • Myths & Memories (1986)
  • Hollywood's Vietnam (1981)
  • The Postmodernist Always Rings Twice (1992)
  • Wonder Tales: Six French Stories of Enchantment (editor with Marina Warner) (1995)
  • Flickers: An Illustrated Celebration of 100 Years of Cinema (1995)
  • Surfing the Zeitgeist (1997; an anthology of his Sunday Times "Scrutiny" columns)
  • Movies (editor) (1999)
  • The Real Tadzio (2001) – a biography of the boy (Baron Władysław Moes) who inspired Thomas Mann's Death in Venice.


  1. ^ Most sources give Adair's place of birth as "Edinburgh"; however, one article originally published on the British Film Institute website[5] gives his birthplace as Kilmarnock. Also, the birth of only one Gilbert Adair is recorded for 1944–45 on the Scottish Government website, and the place of registration is Kilmarnock.


  1. ^ Gilbert Adair at British Council: Literature
  2. ^ a b c d Stuart Jeffries and Ronald Bergan. Obituary: Gilbert Adair, The Guardian, 9 December 2011.
  3. ^ Peter Bradshaw. "Gilbert Adair: a man of letters for the cinema age", The Guardian, 9 December 2011
  4. ^ a b Jake Kerridge. "Gilbert Adair: a man of many parts", The Telegraph, 10 Dec 2011.
  5. ^ Adair, Gilbert (Summer 1981). "One elephant, two elephant: That Sinking Feeling and Gregory's Girl". via the Wayback Machine. British Film Institute. Retrieved 16 July 2019.
  6. ^ Peter Pan and the Only Children, at
  7. ^ Higgins, Mike (11 December 2011). "Gilbert Adair – acerbic, astute and a true cinephile". The Independent.
  8. ^ Glenn Kenny. "Gilbert Adair, 1944-2011", 9 Dec 2011.
  9. ^ "The rubicon and the rubik cube: Exile, paradox and Raúl Ruiz" Archived 17 April 2012 at the Wayback Machine, Sight & Sound, Winter 1981/1982.
  10. ^ The Daily Telegraph 22 January 2012
  11. ^ "My dying friend found kindness to be the rule, not the exception", The Observer, 10 December 2011

External links[edit]