Frédéric Beigbeder criticizes literary advice on TikTok

(Paris) Books full of good feelings that sell because they have upset such and such an influencer, very little for Frédéric Beigbeder: in terms of literary criticism, “the young people of TikTok put their finger in the eye”.

Whereas L’Obs wonders about the favorite network of teens, at the origin of a “new literary revolution among young people” according to the weekly, the novelist and critic takes the opposite view.

“I believe that we should be able to dissociate beauty in literature from the desire to do good. This is not the mission of art. Art is not a Xanax, ”he says, questioned by AFP.

The most beloved books of “Booktokers”, overwhelmingly young women, have a clear tendency to exalt positive feelings, love in mind, self-esteem, kindness.

L’Obs was quoting A thousand kisses for a boy, romance of Briton Tillie Cole. Other darlings of this segment of criticism are called Burn After Writing, a giant Proust questionnaire, or The Bridgertons Chronicle, saga of the American Julia Quinn taking place at the beginning of the XIXe century, at the origin of a Netflix series.

For Frédéric Beigbeder, who drew wrath for an acerbic article on the book by youtubeuse Lena Situations, “beware of the idea that all books must go in the direction of kindness”.

“This is the start of the Soviet Union. The Russians decided that all books with a pessimistic phrase should be banned. It happened ! You wrote a pessimistic sentence and you went to a re-education camp, ”recalls the writer.


He published during this literary re-entry in January A dam against the Atlantic (Grasset editions), a self-portrait showing a certain pessimism about oneself and the future of the planet.

“I have a nervous breakdown like all the heroes of contemporary novels,” we read. He describes himself as a dilettante “who has ridiculed everything so much that he doesn’t even know how to get serious again”.

But with the requirement in literature, on the other hand, he is not joking, he told AFP. “For me, those who admire personal development guides or”feel-good books”, It is called uneducated. Let them study the history of literature and then we will discuss ”.

Frédéric Beigbeder said he was challenged by the position of another novelist, the most famous of them, Michel Houellebecq, who told the newspaper The world : “I think that it is with the good feelings that one makes good literature”.

“Provocation: it starts from a certain high level of loneliness and unhappiness”, estimates the critic of the Figaro and the radio show The mask and the feather.

And to answer him: “It becomes a strong debate, it is a real subject for the French baccalaureate and you have to choose your camp, comrade!” And, me, I must confess that I have an attraction rather, in the books, for the Evil. It fascinates me. I am tortuous, a little perverse, I like dark, complicated, ambiguous stories, and that we go looking for painful subjects, that we scratch the wounds ”.

“Many young people say they don’t have the courage to read In Search of Lost Time [de Marcel Proust]. And I understand, it’s intimidating, thousands of pages written very small. But, at the same time, they read thousands of text messages, tweets … So it’s not reading that bothers them. It’s just the spacing between sentences, ”he notes.

At 18, in the early 1980s, when the TV show Apostrophes sold, he was enthusiastic about the American Charles Bukowski. “Because it’s simple, it’s funny, it’s about biture, love, vomit. There is a little childish side. I think you have to accept going to literature for the wrong reasons at the start ”.

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