Drevet, Patrick (François Antoine) 1948-
Drevet, Patrick (François Antoine) 1948-
PERSONAL: Born May 21, 1948, in Saint-Etienne, France; son of Antoine (in lumber sales) and Marie (a secretary; maiden name, Duplomb) Drevet. Education: Lycee Ampere (Lyon), baccalaureat es lettres, 1967; Faculte des Lettres de Lyon, licence es letters classiques, 1970.
ADDRESSES: Home—66, rue de Vouillé, Paris, France 75015.
CAREER: Author. Externat Sainte-Marie, Lyon, France, professeur de letters classiques, 1971-87; Editions Gallimard, Paris, France, conseiller littéraire, 1987-.
AWARDS, HONORS: Prix des Auteurs et Écrivains Lyonnais, 1980, for Les gardiens des pierres; Prix Charles Exbrayat, 1990, for La Micheline; Prix Rhône-Alpes du Livre, 1995, for Le miroir aux papillons.
Pour Geneviève (novel), Gallimard (Paris, France), 1978.
Les gardiens des pierres (novel), Gallimard (Paris, France), 1980.
Le lieu des passants (novel), Gallimard (Paris, France), 1982.
Récit d'un qeste: sur des peintures de Georges Adilon, MEM/Arte Facts (Lyon, France), 1984.
Le gour des abeilles: récit, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1985.
Le visiteur de hasard (novel), Gallimard (Paris, France), 1987.
Une chambre dans les bois (novel), Gallimard (Paris, France), 1988, translation by James Kirkup published as A Room in the Woods, Quartet Books (London, England), 1991.
La Micheline (novel), Hatier (Paris, France), 1990, translation by James Kirkup published as My Micheline, Quartet Books (London, England), 1993.
L'amour nomade (novel), Gallimard (Paris, France), 1991.
Huit petites études sur le désir de voir (essays), Gallimard (Paris, France), 1991.
Le rire de Mandrin (novel), Belfond (Paris, France), 1993.
L'isle Adam (monograph), photographs by Régis Molinard, Éditions Molinard (Auvers-sur-Oise, France), 1993.
Nuit des temps (novella), Nouvelle Revue Francais (Paris, France), 1993.
Dieux obscurs (novel), Belfond (Paris, France), 1994.
Le miroir aux papillons: récit (essay), Belfond (Paris, France), 1995.
Petites études sur le désir de voir, II (essays), Gallimard (Paris, France), 1996, portions translated by James Kirkup and published as "Our Stores of Serenity" in Diversions, a Celebration for James Kirkup, Salzburg University (Portland, OR), 1998.
Le corps du monde (novel), Seuil (Paris, France), 1997.
Auvers-sur-Oise, lumière à peindre (monograph), photographs by Régis Molinard, Éditions Molinard (Auvers-sur-Oise, France), 1997, translation by James Kirkup published as Auvers-sur-Oise: Painting with Light, Éditions Molinard (Auvers-sur-Oise, France), 1997.
Le voeux d'écriture: Petites études (essays), Gallimard (Paris, France), 1998.
Le sourire (essay), Gallimard (Paris, France), 1999.
Mes images de l'amour (essays), Gallimard (Paris, France), 2001.
Paysages d'Eros (essays), Gallimard (Paris, France), 2003.
Also author of film scripts, plays for children, and television productions. Contributor to periodicals, including Magazine littéraire, Moule à gaufres, Nouvelles nouvelles, and Quai Voltaire revue littéraire. Short fiction translated and included in anthologies, including More Like Minds, GMP (London, England), 1991; and The Penguin Book of International Gay Fiction, Viking Penguin (New York, NY), 1995.
Author's works translated into other languages, including Italian, Spanish, and Bulgarian.
SIDELIGHTS: French author Patrick Drevet has earned distinction for his vividly sensual and at times unsettling depictions of the natural world, individual subjectivity, and homosexual attraction. Regarded as an accomplished literary stylist, Drevet's meticulously descriptive prose has been compared to that of such nouveau roman practitioners as Alain Robbe-Grillet, while his focus on poetic evocation of interior states and homosexual longing has elicited comparison to the works of Marcel Proust, Arthur Rimbaud, and André Gide. In a review of Drevet's 2003 book, Paysages d'Eros, Lambda Book Report reviewer Benjamin Ivry identified Drevet as an important gay writer whose oeuvre is long overdue for English-language translation.
Drevet's first two novels, Pour Geneviève and Les gardiens des pierres, introduce the author's distinct descriptive style and psychological perspective. The first novel centers upon a man who recalls his childhood obsession with a war bunker built on the Mediterranean coast, and the second details the changes among members of a film crew while working at a monastery. Le lieu des passants, Drevet's third novel, revolves around the narrator's effort to escape human contact and his potentially violent masculinity by turning inward, to his own thoughts and writing. Emotionally detached and lonely, the protagonist wanders the streets, observing passersby and translating the experience of his various encounters into writing rather than succumb to his physical desire for connection. The story is essentially plotless and devoid of dialogue or dramatic action, as the narrator merely describes his sustained attempt to avoid others. As Sergio Villani noted in World Literature Today, the novel is "narcissistic" by design, representing a failed experiment in self-imposed intellectual and textual isolation. While observing that the narrator's lesson in futility tends to produce a certain "monotony" for the reader, Villani found compensation in Drevet's "admirable use" of metaphor.
Le gour des abeilles relates the adventure of two boys who find spiritual transformation at a remote gorge on the Bienne River. Forbidden by their mothers to embark on the expedition, the boys are enlivened by their rebellion and the erotic reputation of their destination, where they hope to spy muscular swimmers and couples in the surrounding woods. However, instead of discovering sexual knowledge, they achieve a type of mystical transcendence at the gorge as their mounting anticipation gives way to the natural beauty of the location and their own sense of oneness with the world. For M. Green, writing in World Literature Today, Drevet successfully conveys the excitement and heightened sensory experience of the boys, and his discussion of the gorge's etymology provides "a mythical and folkloric" aspect to the story.
Le visiteur de hasard takes the form of a journal in which an unnamed schoolteacher recounts his growing fascination with one of his students, Jean-Louis S. The teacher, who is married and a father, is irresistibly drawn to the boy's adolescent physicality, which produces a mixture of fear and ecstasy in the man. Sensing that the boy is strangely different from his peers, the teacher eventually learns that he has fled his home and lives alone, apparently supporting himself through prostitution. As their relationship intensifies, the teacher becomes the student, and they finally consummate their mutual seduction in an impassioned liaison. Comparing Drevet's meticulous description to that of Nathalie Sarraute and Robbe-Grillet, Gervais E. Reed noted in the French Review that Drevet's prose is "microscopic in its physical and psychological detail." In a Times Literary Supplement review, James Kirkup similarly commended Drevet's "mastery of style" and his ability to breathe life and psychological complexity into the novel's otherwise ordinary characters.
Une chambre dans les bois centers upon the relationship between a fatherless young boy named David and a mysterious older youth named William, whom David encounters while working with a group of Italian woodcutters in the Jura Mountains. William initially avoids David, but in light of David's deep admiration he eventually warms to the young boy and they become friends. The novel is set during the 1950s against the background of the Algerian War; William reveals to David that he is a deserter from the French military, thus explaining his presence at the remote lumber camp. David's platonic affection for William gradually becomes physical, and they finally sleep together while William is hiding out at David's home. Yet, the sexual encounter belies the complexity of David's feelings for William, as he also regards him as a replacement father figure and acts to create a new family unit by pairing William with his widowed mother. Drawing attention to Drevet's "occasionally poetic and consistently outstanding" descriptive passages, World Literature Today reviewer Emile J. Talbot praised the novel as "probing and perceptive." James Kirkup, writing in the Times Literary Supplement, also commended Drevet's masterful prose and psychological control but concluded that the novel's greatest strength lies in the "chasteness" of David's "pure passion" for William. Praising the novel's "verbal alchemy" and Drevet's "cinematic style" in the French Review, Reed concluded, "Drevet's book merits serious attention."
In La Micheline, Drevet's seventh novel, the author recounts his childhood forays from his valley home in Saint-Claude to Saint-Bonnet-le-Chateau, a mountain town. During these trips to visit his maternal grandmother the boy travels with his mother aboard local French trains called Michelines, and the passing landscape serves as a metaphor for physical and temporal change. Drawing upon this transitory imagery, Drevet recollects various times and places as he describes the provincial settings along the route as well as experiences and impressions from his early life. Commenting on the novel's striking evocation of childhood perceptions, Times Literary Supplement reviewer John Taylor praised the book as a "sublimely written novelistic essay." As Reed noted in the French Review, the novel operates at multiple levels of meaning and demonstrates Drevet's characteristic interest in "the fleeting quality of beauty." In the Review of Contemporary Fiction, Taylor further commended the novel's "stunningly sensual" language.
Like La Micheline, L'amour nomade is constructed around the motif of travel and conveys an impressionistic quality that shifts between time and geography. In this work the unnamed provincial narrator recalls his adoration for Marc, a vain immoralist who travels Europe and Africa in search of liberation. The story consists of the narrator's remembered conversations, correspondences, and experiences with Marc in Paris during the 1960s. While noting that neither character is particularly appealing—Marc is egotistical and shallow and the narrator is obsequious—Reed observed in the French Review that their central appeal is their "honesty." Praising the the novel as "disquieting" and "incisive," Reed noted that it illustrates the "fearsome" power of language as a tool of seduction and enslavement.
A departure from Drevet's semi-autobiographical novels, Le corps du monde is set during the eighteenth century and features an obscure historical figure, French physician and botanist Joseph de Jussieu. The novel recounts de Jussieu's expedition to South America, where he studies the indigenous flora and geology in the hope of returning to France with a wealth of valuable specimens. Typical of Drevet's fiction, the novel is animated by the author's vibrant descriptions as de Jussieu's encounters the exotic landscape of the New World with a mix of scientific objectivity and emotional reverie. World Literature Today reviewer Guy Mermier praised Drevet's presentation of de Jussieu's experiences, concluding that the novel is "enjoyable" upon first reading but also promised impressive depth upon reexamination.
Drevet has published several volumes of meditative prose, including Le sourire, a study of the smile as a form of nonverbal communication; Mes images de l'amour, in which he discusses the erotic pleasure derived from observing others—lovers as well as acrobats and wrestlers—in the act of coupling; and Paysages d'Eros, a close study of the human body—from skin and hair to voice and veins—that celebrates external forms and challenges the notion that physical beauty is superficial or less profound than inner being. According to Ivry in the Lambda Book Report, "Drevet continues to improve as a writer, and … [Paysages d'Eros] is perhaps his best."
The visual emphasis of Drevet's aesthetic perspective is revealed in Huit petites études sur le désir de voir, a collection of eight essays in which he discusses the interrelationship between language and sensory experience. The volume includes reflections on the nature of gesture and silence, descriptions of Lyon and Paris, and reflections on the materiality of reading and writing. Commenting on the collection in the French Review, Reed noted that for Drevet, "every act of seeing is an act of love."
Drevet told CA: "I believe that I first began to write in order to listen to the world—to experience it—and I continued to do it because writing became for me the only way to respond to my yearning to feel more, to see more, and to live more. Among the authors who have most influenced me, I can certainly cite Marcel Proust, but also Julien Gracq, Jean Genet, Virginia Woolf, and James Joyce. Reading Joyce's novel Ulysses was critical to my choice of an experimental style. I was also profoundly influenced by Greek art, the visual arts, and such film auteurs as Robert Bresson, Federico Fellini, Andre Tarkovski, and Eric Rohmer.
"The subjects and themes of my books always issue from my deepest desires, in other words, from the images that haunt me, the memories that obsess me, and the scenes that surface from my unconscious as either revelations or enigmas. These topics always have to do with the human body and its place in nature, in the world, and in the universe. Apart from this subject matter, the universal urge to create leads me to write individual pieces that through the processes of analyzing, composing, and organizing become books.
"The greatest surprise I get from writing is that in rereading my writings, I am astonished to discover what I have written, as though I weren't the author. While writing I don't know what I'm looking for; it is only in making discoveries that I learn the objectives of my search. That is why, among my books, my favorite is undoubtedly Le lieu des passants. It's not the most successful—in fact, it's one of the least—but it is the work that most directly deals with my way of experiencing the world, which Charles Baudelaire defined so well in his prose poem 'The Crowds': 'What men call love is very small, restrained, and feeble compared to when someone gives his entire soul in poetry and generosity to whomever happens to pass by.' I believe, finally, that I will continually come back to Le Lieu des passants and will never finish coming back to it."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Drevet, Patrick, Le miroir aux papillons: récit, Belfond (Paris, France), 1995.
Drevet, Patrick, Petites études sur le désir de voir, II, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1996.
Drevet, Patrick, Mes images de l'amour, Gallimard (Paris, France), 2001.
Drevet, Patrick, Paysages d'Eros, Gallimard (Paris, France), 2003.
French Review, March, 1989, Gervais E. Reed, review of Le visiteur de hasard, pp. 713-714; May, 1991, Gervais E. Reed, review of Une chambre dans les bois, pp. 1073-1074; December, 1991, Gervais E. Reed, review of La Micheline, pp. 338-339; February, 1993, Gervais E. Reed, review of L'amour nomade and Huit petites études sur le désir de voir, pp. 534-536.
Lambda Book Report, May, 2004, Benjamin Ivry, review of Paysages d'Eros, p. 38.
Review of Contemporary Fiction, summer, 1991, John Taylor, review of La Micheline, pp. 260-261.
Times Literary Supplement, January 22, 1988, James Kirkup, review of Le visiteur de hasard, p. 82; October 13, 1989, James Kirkup, review of Une chambre dans les bois, p. 1130; November 29, 1991, John Taylor, review of La Micheline, p. 23.
World Literature Today, winter, 1983, Sergio Villani, review of Le lieu des passants, pp. 60-61; autumn, 1986, M. Green, review of Le gour des abeilles, p. 603; autumn, 1990, Emile J. Talbot, review of Une chambre dans les bois, p. 605; summer, 1998, Guy Mermier, review of Le corps du monde, p. 577.