Double Game

Paul Benjamin AusterSophie Calle


Book, 19.9 x 14.2 cm, 293 p, language: English, publisher: London: Violette Editions, ISBN: 9781900828286.
Materials: ink, paper

Collection: Collection M HKA, Antwerp (Inv. no. B 2024/447).

Literary synopsis

Double Game is organized into three parts. In Part I the protagonist Maria sets herself certain thematic constraints which require her to organize her days or weeks by color or letter; some weeks, Maria “would indulge in what she called ‘the chromatic diet,’ restricting herself to foods of any single color on any given day. Monday orange: carrots, cantaloupe, boiled shrimp. Tuesday red: tomatoes, persimmons, steak tartare.” And so on. Part II features the real-life Sophie Calle projects which Auster borrowed for Maria: The Wardrobe, in which Calle sends a complete stranger with inferior style an article of clothing every year for Christmas. The Striptease, where Calle wanders onto the stage of a Pigalle stripclub and takes off all her clothing. And The Address Book, in which Calle discovers an address book in the street in Paris and sets about reconstructing the identity of its owner through interviews with the contacts inside, all of which were published in the newspaper Libération. In Part III, Calle writes that she asked Auster “to invent a fictive character which I would attempt to resemble.” Auster responded with Gotham Handbook: a guide to making New York a better place. Part of Auster’s instructions to Calle are to find a spot in New York (a phone booth on the corner of Greenwich and Harrison Streets), and beautify it.

Relation of the novel to the artist’s practice

In his 1992 novel Leviathan, Auster based aspects of his fictional artist "Maria" on Sophie Calle, and thanks her for allowing "to mingle fact with fiction". In the opening chapters of Double Game, Calle reverses this premise and lives out elements of Maria's story to combine reality and fiction in her own way. In further chapters of Volume One, Calle uses passages from Leviathan as a pretext for a retrospective of her own installations and other works from the last twenty years. In response to the novelist's borrowings from her own life, Calle asked Auster to write a fiction which she could live. The result is The Gotham Handbook: Instructions by Auster on how to live for one week Manhattan, and Calle's diary of that week as she lived it. Calle's work is distinguished by its use of arbitrary sets of constraints, and evokes the French literary movement of the 1960s known as Oulipo. Her work frequently depicts human vulnerability, and examines identity and intimacy. She is recognized for her detective-like ability to follow strangers and investigate their private lives. Her photographic work often includes panels of text of her own writing.

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