Belletto, René 1945-

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Belletto, René 1945-
(François Labret)


Born September 11, 1945, in Lyon, France.


Home—Paris, France. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Editions P.O.L., 33, rue Saint-André-des-Arts, 75006 Paris, France.


Writer, journalist, poet, musician, sculptor. Lyon-Poche periodical, Lyon, France, film critic under pseudonym of François Labret, 1976-82. Has written for television.


Jean Ray Prize, 1974, for Le temps mort; Grand prix de littérature policière,1983, for Sur la terre comme au ciel; Prix Fémina, 1986, for L'enfer.


Le temps mort: récits fantastiques (novel), Marabout (Verviers, France), 1974.

L'homme de main: et autres nouvelles (short stories), Librio (Paris, France), 1974.

La vie rêvée: et autres nouvelles (short stories), Librio (Paris, France), 1974.

Les traîtres mots, ou, Sept aventures de Thomas Nylkan: récit (novel), Flammarion (Paris, France), 1976.

Livre d'histoire … (novel), Hachette (Paris, France), 1978.

Film noir (novel), Hachette (Paris, France), 1980.

Le revenant (novel), Hachette (Paris, France), 1981.

Sur la terre comme au ciel (novel), Hachette (Paris, France), 1982.

L'enfer (novel), P.O.L. (Paris, France), 1986, English translation by Jeremy Leggatt published as Eclipse: A Novel, Mercury House (San Francisco, CA), 1990.

Loin de Lyon: XLVII sonnets, P.O.L. (Paris, France), 1986.

La machine: roman (novel), P.O.L. (Paris, France), 1990, English translation by Lanie Goodman published as Machine, Grove Press (New York, NY), 1993.

Remarques (poetry), P.O.L. (Paris, France), 1991.

Les grandes espérances de Charles Dickens (criticism), P.O.L. (Paris, France), 1994.

Régis Mille l'éventreur, roman (novel), P.O.L. (Paris, France), 1996.

Ville de la peur: roman (novel), P.O.L. (Paris, France), 1997.

Histoire d'une vie: Remarques II (reprenant nombres des premières Remarques), P.O.L. (Paris, France), 1998.

Créature: roman (novel), P.O.L. (Paris, France), 2000.

Mourir (novel), P.O.L. (Paris, France), 2002.

Petit traité de la vie et de la mort: Remarques III, P.O.L. (Paris, France), 2003.

Coda (novel), P.O.L. (Paris, France), 2005.

Contributor of stories and articles to periodicals and magazines, including Granta.


Sur la terre comme au ciel was adapted for the feature film Péril en la demeure, 1985; La Machine was adapted for a feature film of the same title, 1994.


French author René Belletto is an "infinitely intriguing writer," according to Warren Motte, writing in World Literature Today. Motte went on to note that part of Belletto's success is that "he never fails to astonish." Equally at home in science fiction, horror, detective fiction, and avant-garde fiction, Belletto has also written poetry and literary criticism. Often Belletto will cross genre lines within one work, blending, for example, avant-garde and detective fiction in his award-winning Sur la terre comme au ciel, and science fiction with the literary novel in La Machine. Several of Belletto's works have been translated into English, and still others have drawn the attention of English-speaking reviewers in their French original.

Born in Lyon, France, just following the end of World War II, Belletto published his first novel, Le temps mort: récits fantastiques, in 1974. Working also as a film critic in Lyon, Belletto left his native city in 1978 for Paris, and has published steadily since that time. His novel Livre d'histoire … was published that same year. Somewhat experimental in format with stories begun but never finished, this novel was called "outstanding" by Times Literary Supplement reviewer Patrick McCarthy, who further noted that unlike much French novel-writing, Belletto's work "demonstrates that the novel can become zany and imaginative." Belletto followed this novel three years later with Le revenant, an "uninhibited piece of storytelling written in rich, playful language," according to McCarthy in the Times Literary Supplement. The novel interweaves three different stories that range from detective fiction to realistic family saga, with the tales linked by the protagonist's car. McCarthy felt "Belletto's imagination never flags" in this work. Similar praise came from World Literature Today reviewer Madeleine Rumeau-Smith, who called Le revenant a "thrilling, funny, and very refreshing book."

Belletto's 1982 novel Sur la terre comme au ciel was also a thriller, and one that "abounds in corpses, hired assassins and gigantic explosions," as McCarthy noted in the Times Literary Supplement. Yet beneath the detective-story trappings, this novel has deeper resonance, with music and family dynamics. For McCarthy, "Belletto has an excellent sense of humour and his gun-toting narrators are as much clowns as detectives." L'enfer was published in French in 1986, and in English translation, as Eclipse, in 1990. Another detective pastiche, the work deals with the kidnapping of a young boy to supply eyes to the blind son of two wealthy Bolivians, and with the misadventures of the bumbling musicologist hero who becomes involved in the sordid crime. Again, Belletto presents a cast of unique characters, and writes of car chases and dead bodies, as well as high and low adventures. McCarthy, reviewing the French original in the Times Literary Supplement, felt it was best to view the book as a "black comedy." Writing in the French Review, Lynn Kettler Penrod found L'enfer "a fascinating and entertaining study of good and evil within the framework of the detective novel." Reviewing the English translation, Eclipse, in the New York Times Book Review, Linda Simon had similar praise, calling it an "intricate tale." Simon concluded, however, that Eclipse was "more than just an ingeniously plotted thriller." A critic for Kirkus Reviews was less impressed, finding the tale "diverting, with some nice twists, but increasingly untidy, with a hero who's kind of a drag." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly, though, was more positive, praising Bellotto's "wit and deft literary style [that] keep the reader turning pages." Likewise, Booklist contributor Peter Robinson called the novel an "insidious pleasure."

Belletto blends science fiction and the thriller genres for his 1990 work, La machine, in which a doctor develops a computer to allow trading personalities between humans. However, when a violent killer takes over the body of a young boy, things take a much different turn than the inventive doctor has expected. Writing in the Times Literary Supplement, Piers Burton-Page felt that Belletto "captures the materialism of contemporary France, all hi-tech trappings and luxury furnishings." However, Gary Krist, writing in the Hudson Review, was less positive in his assessment, calling the same work a "highbrow thriller from France with aspirations much greater than the book itself can support." Krist went on to note that La machine, "despite its pretensions, turns out to be nothing more than the usual best-selling cardboard-andsawdust contrivance." Other reviewers found more to like in the work. Margot Mifflin, for example, reviewing the English translation in Entertainment Weekly, came down strongly for the novel, writing that it "delivers on every count."

In his novels since the year 2000, Belletto has continued to blend genres. In Créature: roman, he creates a mixture of "suspense, passion, murder, mystery, interstellar travel and parallel universes," as Monique F. Nagem noted in the French Review. Nagem further called the work "original and engrossing," while for a contributor to the Economist, it was a "classy novel." Mourir, from 2002, is a novel in two parts through which the reader wanders "with no road maps and precious little control over events," as Motte noted, "willingly benighted and gleefully bedazzled." Reviewing Belletto's 2005 title, Coda, in World Literature Today, Motte found the novel a "singularly apposite metaphor for Belletto's distinguished career as a writer, during which, over thirty years and eighteen books, one never knows what lies beyond the next corner."



Booklist, January 15, 1980, Peter Robertson, review of Eclipse, p. 97.

Economist, April 15, 2000, review of Créature: roman, p. 14.

Entertainment Weekly, December 10, 1993, Margot Mifflin, review of Machine, p. 73.

French Review, May, 1987, Lynne Kettler Penrod, review of L'enfer, pp. 903-904; May, 2001, Monique F. Nagem, review of Créature, pp. 1271-1273.

Hudson Review, summer, 1994, Gary Krist, "Bad Art, Good Entertainment," review of Machine, pp. 301-302.

Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 1989, review of Eclipse, p. 1546.

New York Times Book Review, February 4, 1990, Linda Simon, "Invitation to a Kidnapping," review of Eclipse, p. 12.

Publishers Weekly, November 3, 1989, review of Eclipse, p. 82; August 30, 1993, review of Machine, p. 73.

Times Literary Supplement, October 27, 1978, Patrick McCarthy, "Tearing up the Universe," review of Livre d'histoire, p. 1264; October 9, 1981, Patrick McCarthy, "Motorway Madness," review of Le revenant, p. 1172; October 8, 1982, Patrick McCarthy, "Shooting on the Run," review of Sur la terre comme au ciel, p. 1113; September 5, 1986, Patrick McCarthy, "Not Just an Ugly Face," review of L'enfer, p. 979; November 30, 1990, Piers Burton-Page, "Out of Your Mind," review of La machine, p. 1289.

World Literature Today, spring, 1982, Madeleine Rumeau-Smith, review of Le revenant, p. 297; spring, 2002, Warren Motte, review of Mourir, p. 173; March-April, 2006, Warren Motte, review of Coda, pp. 53-54.


Biographie de René Belletto, (April 11, 2006), Julien Brunel, "René Belletto."

Internet Movie Database, (April 11, 2006), "René Belletto."

P.O.L. Web site, (April 11, 2006), "René Belletto."

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