Douleur Exquise

by Sophie Calle

Tokyo: Hara Bijutsukan, 1999. First edition. 16mo (15x15cm), spiral-binding with illustrated cardboard covers. Unpaginated, 220pp. Text in Japanese. Mild creasing at rear board to holes at spiral binding. Top right hole of spiral binding on rear board is detached, due to a small tear, else near fine.

Sophie Calle’s work is known for her playful combination of narrative and photography, often described as autofiction. In Douleur Exquise [Exquisite Pain], she tells the story of her painful breakup in the most beautiful and artistic way.

„In 1984 I was awarded a grant to go to Japan for three months. I left on October 25, not knowing that this date marked the beginning of a 92-day countdown to the end of a love affair—nothing unusual, but for me then the unhappiest moment of my whole life.“

The book unfolds in two parts: The first part Count Down, consists of 92 collected photos and ephemera of Sophie Calle’s journey by train from Paris to Tokyo. Each image is stamped with a number, indicating the remaining days to unhappiness. In the second part, Count Up, Sophie Calle processes her trauma through juxtaposing her own story of pain and heartbreak with the story of others. Like a mantra, she tells her story twenty-one times from several different angles until her pain finally vanishes.

This stunning version of Douleur Exquise, designed as a tear-off calendar, is the very scarce and true first edition that was produced for Sophie Calle’s first solo show in Japan at the Hara Museum, where the work was also first shown in 1999. It was Sophie Calle’s desire to premier the work in the country from which it originated.

OCLC (10/2021) lists only two holding at Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and SAIC: The John M Flaxman Library.