Boris Vian and the mysteries of self invention

I am holed up in a London hotel room, sick as a dog.  

Paging through, the Times Literary Supplement, I came across this passage:

Throughout his thirty-nine years Vian made up life as he went.  When the world declared that his invention did not fit, he spun his own planet, in a parallel orbit, where the laws of Boris applied.

People like Boris are interesting studies for anthropologists,  Because most of us are quite fully formed by our culture.  It supplies ways of seeing, feeling and acting, and we commit to these.  

We do not make up life as we go along.  We don’t spin our own planets.  And when the world is unhappy with one of our innovations, generally we say, “Oh, sorry!  What was I thinking?”  

People like Boris should be impossible.  So should have been Oscar Wilde, Beau Brummell and that guy you went to high school with, the one who was his own world.   

We need to know about how these people invent themselves and then a world.


Campbell, James.  2011.  The Prince of Saint-Germain.  TLS.  November 11, p. 17

8 thoughts on “Boris Vian and the mysteries of self invention

  1. Ron

    I’ve often referred to culture as “a prison”, because, like you say,
    we’re all pretty bound by the values subtly, and not-so-subtly, passed
    along to us. You’ve really got me thinking about these “impossible people”

  2. Tim

    And where can I find over 100 titles by Boris Vian?
    The Yale Library – a place full of impossible people (the good kind).

    1. Grant Post author

      Tim, Yes, some people get to go to heaven but if you’re really interesting you get to go the The Yale Library. Grant

    1. Grant Post author

      Jay, great point, and expands the evidence set to include all the innovators who invent the worlds they already occupy. As it were. Thanks! Grant

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