Slapstick tactics and pâtisserie terrorism in Noël Godin's Groucho-Marxist manifesto. Revenge has never been so sweet.

"Everything is to be found in Peter Rabbit," the Consul liked to say.

Malcolm Lowry, Under the Volcano

Marguerite Duras (nouveau roman), Jean-Luc Godard (nouvelle vague), Bernard-Henri Lévy (nouveau philosophe) and Bill Gates (nouveau riche) have one thing in common, besides their former novelty value. They have all ended up with egg on their faces after falling foul of Noël Godin (nouvelle cuisine), a colourful, cream-tart-toting terrorist, given to fits of Falstaffian histrionics. Since 1969, this boisterous Belgian has stalked some of the most prominent members of the literati, glitterati and politi - Europe's crème de la crème - intent on giving them a taste of his anger : now he is going global. As reference points, imagine Nechayev starring in one of Mack Sennett's commotion pictures, Ravachol sparking off a custard-pie free-for-all, or Delia Smith advocating gâteau guerilla warfare at a chimpanzees' tea party. These oft-fêted, sometimes ill-fated, culinary crimes are chronicled in Godin's toothsomely-titled memoirs, Crème et châtiment ("Cream and Punishment"). Even in print, revenge has never been so sweet.


M. Godin, better known under his preposterous nom de guerre Georges Le Gloupier, is an unlikely if delightful desperado. Pie-eyed, pudding-faced and potbellied, he is the proud possessor of an unprepossessing appearance which seems to laugh in the airbrushed mugshot of our aesthetically-correct times. As if that were not enough, he adds insult to injury by displaying a penchant for unsuitable suits of the tatty Tatie variety - a dirt-cheap-and-cheerful Parisian department store - indicating a rejection of Savile Row chic in favour of skid row chicanery. Cheeky sideburns apart, he looks like your average, run-of-the-mill, middle-aged man on the street, all greying temples and tired attire. In fact, he could be anybody, or even nobody for all we know; indeed he is.

Godin-Le Gloupier inhabits a twilight world suspended between plot-hatching obscurity and limelight-hogging ubiquity. His pâtisserie pranks regularly hit the headlines, and yet he can still strike unawares in broad daylight, confounding the tightest of security measures Fantômas-fashion. France's top TV producers fall over themselves to invite him on their prime-time tabloid shows for another havoc-wreaking (let alone alcohol-reeking) performance that will send the ratings sorely soaring, but his name does not even appear on the cover of his autobiography. This is where revolutionary abnegation and the proverbial death of the author meet neat marketing strategy.

For promotional purposes, Godin is Le Gloupier, although Le Gloupier is not necessarily Godin. To begin with, the phantom flan-flinger has always been a resolutely collective effort. Whenever la bande à Godin goes on the warpath, several comrades are tarted up as Le Gloupier in order to create a diversion, or simply to ensure that at least one of them gets a bull's-eye. Moreover, from the point of view of characterization, Le Gloupier is as flat as a baking tray. He is a Bergsonian textbook case - the degré zéro of comique de répétition . Any number of dairy devils itching for doughy, doughty deeds can flesh out this most basic of actantial functions : casting a confection at a figure of authority. It's a piece of cake, so to speak. No wonder, then, that the pie-thrower should have contracted the Purple Rose of Cairo syndrome.

In the time-honoured tradition of Galatea, Pinocchio and sundry gingerbread men legging it after rising from the pastryboard, Le Gloupier has taken on a life of his own. Being the stuff folk heroes are made of, he was bound to become public property sooner or later. Today, he is a runaway running gag, popping up all over the place, unbeknown to his creator, who is sometimes associated with attacks he has taken no part in, but is only too willing to take credit for. En un mot , Le Gloupier has become a name to conjure with - a name with which Godin attempts to conjure himself away. Thanks to the recent spate of copycat crimes, he has found it easy as pie to go on playing cat-and-mouse with the gendarmes , despite being shadowed round the clock by a police officer. In any case, arresting him would be neither here nor there because, to all intents and purposes, he is neither here nor there. Making due allowances, a parallel could be drawn with the well-nigh legendary Zapatist leader. When 60,000 Mexicans took to the streets like ducks to water chanting "We are all Marcos," it became obvious that the masked poet-guerillero (half-Dante, half-Subcomandante) had succeeded in transforming his elusiveness into illusiveness. Godin has reached a similar, semi-mythical status, but disappearing into thin air is not always such an easy task in his case : unobtrusiveness ill-becomes a Belgian braggadocio. Try as he may, Godin never manages to convince us that he is merely the vanguard of gâteau guerilla warfare, the icing on the cake, as it were. The interview format of Crème et châtiment captures the virtuoso volubility of his television performances, thus reinforcing the impression of an overpowering presence. The presence of a unique voice which seldom has the opportunity of expressing itself at any length.


Surprisingly enough, considering that the eponymous "gloup! gloup!" slogan repeated ad nauseam is all his victims

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