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- For the noted French soldier, see Pierre Terrail, seigneur de Bayard.
Pierre Bayard is the founder of "interventionist criticism", he is opposed to neutral and uncommitted criticism of literary works. In the course of his essays, he has, among other things, chased down unpunished literary criminals (due to the negligence of their creators), provided tips and tricks for talking about books and places that have not been read or seen, or reflected on the resistance/collaboration dilemma.
Bayard's most popular book Comment parler des livres que l'on n'a pas lus ? (Minuit, 2007)(How to talk about books you haven't read ?), is a bestseller in France in which he engages in a delightful study of the different ways of not reading a book, and recommends solutions to be able to talk about it anyway. Paradox for this great reader, who in fact tries to introduce a relationship free of complexes to reading. Assuming that some readers have a terrifying representation of reading, he tries to make them feel free from guilt. The essential thing in culture being to have an overview, he claims the possibility of having a perforated and incomplete culture. Pierre Bayard has renewed this system in Comment parler des lieux où l'on n'a pas été, a work in the second degree again, in which he reviews the authors who have spoken of places they have not visited.
His books have been considered as cases of "novelistic criticism," in that they present revisionist readings of famous fictional mysteries. In his 2008 book L'Affaire du Chien des Baskerville, for example, published in English as Sherlock Holmes was Wrong: Re-opening the Case of the Hound of the Baskervilles he analyzes the famous Sherlock Holmes case, and in his earlier book Who Killed Roger Ackroyd? he re-investigates Agatha Christie's The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. His book on Hamlet argues that Claudius did not kill Hamlet's father,... In these essays on Agatha Christie, Shakespeare and Conan Doyle, he engages in real literary counter-investigations, studying the motivations of the characters, highlighting the inconsistencies of the intrigues and humorously showing that fictional characters escape their creators.
Moreover, humour is a fundamental element of his writing. In How to talk about books you haven't read, the narrator teaches the way not to read, which is a joke because he himself is a great reader. For Pierre Bayard, humour has an analytical function. It allows you to mark a gap between yourself and yourself, and therefore to distance yourself from what you read.
In his latest book, La vérité sur "Dix Petits nègres" (Minuit, 2019) Pierre Bayard totally questions the solution delivered by Agatha Christie to the outcome of his novel. His entire book is therefore the counter-investigation that must restore the truth: we find in fact the procedure he already used in Qui a tué Roger Ackroyd? and in L'Affaire du chien des Baskerville: attempts to rectify certain fictional police investigations that he considers unlikely. And he proposes to come back to a new literary misunderstanding and shed light on a mystery that no one has solved, not even Agatha Christie. The novelty this time being that he lets the real murderer of the Ten Little Niggers speak for himself to lead us to the only acceptable solution.
- Balzac et le troc de l"imaginaire. Lecture de La Peau de chagrin (Lettres modernes-Minard, 1978).
- Symptôme de Stendhal. Armance et l’aveu (Lettres modernes-Minard, 1980).
- Il était deux fois Romain Gary (Presses universitaires de France, 1990).
- Le Paradoxe du menteur. Sur Laclos (Minuit, 1993).
- Maupassant, juste avant Freud (Minuit, 1994).
- Le Hors-sujet. Proust et la digression (Minuit, 1996).
- Qui a tué Roger Ackroyd? (Minuit, 1998 et « Reprise », 2002).
- Lire avec Freud. Pour Jean Bellemin-Noël, dir. Pierre Bayard (Presses universitaires de France, 1998).
- Comment améliorer les œuvres ratées? (Minuit, 2000).
- Enquête sur Hamlet. Le Dialogue de sourds (Minuit, 2002).
- Le Détour par les autres arts. Pour Marie-Claire Ropars, dir. Pierre Bayard et Christian Doumet (L’Improviste, 2004).
- Peut-on appliquer la littérature à la psychanalyse (Minuit, 2004).
- Demain est écrit (Minuit, 2005).
- Comment parler des livres que l'on n'a pas lus? (Minuit, 2007).
- L'Affaire du Chien des Baskerville (Minuit, 2008).
- Le Plagiat par anticipation (Minuit, 2009).
- Et si les œuvres changeaient d'auteur? (Minuit, 2010).
- Comment parler des lieux où l’on n’a pas été? (Minuit, 2012).
- Aurais-je été résistant ou bourreau? (Minuit, 2013).
- Il existe d’autres mondes, Minuit, 2014
- Aurais-je sauvé Geneviève Dixmer ?, Minuit, 2015
- Le Titanic fera naufrage, Minuit, 2016
- L'énigme Tolstoïevski, Minuit, 2017
- La vérité sur "Dix petits nègres", Minuit, 2019
- "Books we have never read" (review)
- "L'Affaire du chien" (review)