‘The dead dancer’s DDI’: Hervé Guibert, remedy, contaminant, and getting it down

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This essay examines, and associates with the techniques of his North American New Narrative contemporaries, two principal qualities of Hervé Guibert’s last three books of lifewriting that chronicle his final years (1989–1991) with AIDS and its rumored remedies. I study the ways in which Guibert’s autobiographical narrator habitually marks time in each book—particularly the terminal interval of its composition—and frustrates distinction between text and author, whose viability is likewise tracked and measured in HIV latency periods, Tcell drawdown, and eligibility thresholds for experimental drug trials. I contextualize Guibert’s related narrative practice to enact betrayal of friends’ and lovers’ confidences, in a health economy of deceit and favor and double-blind protocols, within the traditions of transgressive literature, which crosses boundaries to enlist reader complicity or rejection in a social—and not merely literary—arena. Guibert’s methods in the autofiction and autobiographical books that share his own hastening terminality and repercussive social potency are consistent, I suggest, with the artistic objective that American New Narrative writer Robert Glück has claimed he sites in Guibert, “to approximate the irreversibility of a performance—something you can’t take back.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1335-1342
Number of pages8
JournalTextual Practice
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2021


  • AIDS
  • Brian Blanchfield
  • Bruce Boone
  • Chris Kraus
  • Cytomegalovirus
  • Douglas A Martin
  • Hervé Guibert
  • Robert Glück
  • The Compassion Protocol
  • To the Friend Who Did Not Save My Life
  • autofiction
  • lifewriting
  • transgressive literature


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