Lydie Salvayre: “my treatise on knowing how to succeed” (Irrefutable essay on successology)

La (long) quotation in the epigraph, borrowed from Shakespeare’s sonnet 66, sets the tone: “(…) Tired of seeing that a man of integrity has to beg / when beside him notorious nonentities / wallow in luxury and the love of the public”. If the Shakespearian enunciation in the masculine passes to the feminine in Salvayre, there remains the stripping of false vanities and ballooning glories. It is this “continent” that Lydie Salvayre tackles “with the audacity of a Christopher Columbus” to provide the keys to the most dazzling success. How to lie, crush, mount, appear, instrumentalize and “be on top”? you will know while reading this Irrefutable essay of successologywhich is hard to qualify as it is both a parody of well-being and personal development manuals — like so many variations of a comfortable ready-to-think — and a caustic fresco of our world as it derails.

The test irrefutable starts from an unstoppable observation: success is the cardinal notion of our present, it has supplanted art, politics and religions. Success makes it possible to escape everything – morals, criticism, needs – it is a “transubstantiation”, the Grail of an era subject to a “Copernican transformation of minds”, admittedly recent but carrying away any previous system of values; no one is now required to have talent, contrary to classical precepts. To succeed is to become one of the beings of influence of which Lydia Salvayre offers us a series of portraits (with “a deep and sincere philanthropy”), one of the divinities of our new Olympus.

First, the bookstagrammer influencer, with an “erotic potential” inversely proportional to intelligence, who pushes open doors to good feelings while placing product on product and who ends up publishing a book that her followers are snapping up. In this opus destined to become a best-seller and like Mallarmé (who, Lydia Salvayre rightly recalls, “collaborated actively with the first French lifestyle magazine The latest fashion “), the star of the networks shares her beauty/success secrets (two inseparable parts, one creates the other). And sometimes, in story, our bookstagrammer goes so far as to talk about books, in Sainte-Beuve 2.0.

Let’s skip over the influential man – very useful for understanding how successology, a real “art”, has replaced the absurdly negative term of careerism – to dwell on the faceted portrait of the writer. Indeed the syntagm (in the masculine of generality) covers at least eight species: the confirmed writer, the pamphleteer writer, the beginner writer, the defector (or intercalary) writer, the committed (or wick) writer, the writer-politician, the feminist writer and the stupid writer. Each sketch reveals a side of the Republic of Letters, aiming just (and ferocious), up to self-criticism since the “I” of theTrial falls into one of these categories — we let you discover which one — and that he even dares to criticize critics, at his own risk and peril and “against his interest, but for the enlightenment and instruction of “are faithful readers”.

After a vitriolic portrait of the three types of critics, Lydie Salvayre sets out the golden rule of success: whatever the field, it is not a question of being but of appearing, and for that of knowing how to choose one’s friends, using lies like a polishing and shining brush, being an expert in the new links that are social networks. Just as much a caricature of care and well-being/well-living/success/challenger/dying manuals — until they take on their form with bold maxims, lists to go directly to key advice — that contemporary hybrid of Characters and Maximsthe works of those moralists who, according to Nietzsche’s words, have deceived humanity, this Irrefutable essay of successology is a scathing pochade in which everyone takes for his rank and which invites, in fact, to “take the maquis”.

Lydie Salvayre, Irrefutable essay of successologyeditions of Seuil, “Red Frame”, January 2023, 176 p., 17 € 50

Lydie Salvayre: “my treatise on knowing how to succeed” (Irrefutable essay on successology)