Guibert, Hervé (1955–1991)
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One of the most important French novelists of the 1980s, Hervé Guibert was catapulted to celebrity shortly after the publication of his 1990 novel À l’Ami qui ne m’a pas sauvé la vie (To the Friend Who Did Not Save My Life). In the early pages of this novel about a narrator named Hervé who is struggling to cope with the early stages of HIV disease, the narrator recounts the death from AIDS-related causes of a friend named Muzil. This friend was easily recognized by many as a thinly disguised portrait of the philosopher Michel Foucault, with whom Guibert had been close friends. It had never been publicly acknowledged that Foucault had died from AIDS-related disease, and certain people found Guibert’s “betrayal” of this “secret” to be scandalous. The scandal was aired on French television when Guibert, himself notably ill, appeared on the popular cultural program Apostrophes on March 16, 1990. His appearance on that program won him great popularity and many new readers, who wrote to encourage him not to give up writing, as he had suggested he might. His subsequent AIDS novel, Le protocole compassionnel (The Compassion Protocol, 1991) enjoyed great success. He died on December 27, 1991, weakened by HTV-related conditions and having attempted to commit suicide a few days earlier. Before his death, he completed several more books: Mon valet et moi (My Valet and Me, 1991), L’Homme au chapeau rouge (The Man in the Red Hat, 1992), Cytomégalovirus: Journal d’hospitalisation (Cytomegalovirus: A Hospital Diary, 1992), and Le Paradis (Paradise, 1992). He also completed a video for French television, La pudeur ou l’impudeur (Modesty or Immodesty), which became the subject of further controversy. It showed in great detail a body (Guibert’s) ravaged by HIV disease; it showed a suicide attempt as well, making some reluctant to allow it to be screened. In the end it was shown on late-night French television on January 30, 1992.