Adair is Scottish by birth, but following graduation moved briefly to London, before crossing the channel and joining in the Paris riots of 1968. He remained in the City of Light for just over a decade before returning with a wealth of cinema and literary knowledge under his belt, which he immediately applied as a writer, film, and book critic.
Adair’s obsession with cinema was exploited in his role as critic in the 1970s, culminating in his first and typically atypical work, Hollywood’s Vietnam (1981, updated 1989), an illuminating critical analysis of America’s tendency to misrepresent its role in the war in celluloid. His career as a pasticheur began with Alice Through the Needle’s Eye (1984), an audacious “third” adventure for Alice, where Adair mimics Carroll’s witty and surreal style to create a tale as memorable as the originals. This feat was repeated with J.M. Barrie in Peter Pan and the Only Children (1987). His first essay collection, a stylistic tribute to Barthes and Perec, Myths & Memories was released in 1986, containing his version of Perec’s Je me souviens. His work as an adult novelist began with The Holy Innocents (1988), establishing the intertextual and autobiographical layers that recur in his following works alongside the wordplay, imitation, trickery, and subversion of genre conventions that lent his work a truly European and Oulipian sensibility, close in places to the peaks of his heroes Queneau and Perec.
Adair’s output as a writer bloomed in the 1990s, starting with the homage to Thomas Mann Love and Death in Long Island (1990), filmed in 1997 by Richard Kwietniowski, starring John Hurt, and The Death of the Author (1991), a minor masterpiece establishing his credentials as a writer capable of moulding his intellectual preoccupations into any literary shape he chooses (in this case, theory). His cultural criticism and broadsheet contributions found an output in The Postmodernist Always Rings Twice (1992) and Surfing the Zeitgeist (1997), two collections of miscellaneous essays spanning an enviable range of topics showing Adair’s restless and impish mind. His millennial Flickers: An Illustrated History of 100 Years of Cinema (1995), now unavailable, is a history of cinema in 100 screenshots, and stands as a monument to Adair’s lifetime of cinematic passion. His other novels of the 90s include The Key of the Tower (1997), an entertaining art thriller, and A Closed Book (1999), a psychological horror told in dialogue. (Filmed by long-term collaborator Raúl Ruiz in 2010 with Tom Conti).
Adair’s skill as a translator also reached its summit in the 1990s, with the appearance of his translation of Georges Perec’s La Disparition (A Void). By translating Perec’s e-less novel into English, Adair arguably topped Perec’s feat. His other translation is Françoise Trauffaut’s Letters (1990).
Adair’s final decade was equally productive. His debut novel, The Holy Innocents, was directed by Bertolucci in 2003, with a screenplay by Adair, followed by a rewrite of the original novel, both titled The Dreamers. A novel about the AIDS epidemic set in the Berlitz in Paris, Buenas Noches, Buenos Aires (2003), followed. His screenplay Klimt, starring John Malkovitch, was made in 2006. His final books are the Evadne Mount novels—a trilogy of Agatha Christie pastiches that indulge in Adair’s fondness for postmodern pranking and mysteries. Adair died in 2011 after a stroke had left him blind in 2010.
Adair also wrote the screenplay for The Territory, a Ruiz film made in 1980, and edited several essay collections on films, A Night at the Pictures (1986), and Movies (1999). He also wrote The Real Tadzio (2001), a biography of the boy who inspired Death in Venice.
A Dare — Nicholas Tredell
The Rape of the Cock — Gibert Adair
Interview & Profile — Kevin Jackson
The Author, if Dead, is Not De Man But De Femme — G.N. Forester
The Scottish Postmodernist Never Rings Once, Let Alone Twice, and Can’t Even Be Bothered to Leave a Note — M.J. Nicholls
Gilbert’s Games and the Golden Age of Murder — Martin Edwards
A De’Athly Confession — Kenneth Retrop
A Letter to My Dead Friend Gilbert Adair About Having it Out — Alexander Garcia Duttmann
The Death of the Reader — Lidia Ratberg
Rereading Adair — Jonathan Rosenbaum
The Hand and the Crocodile — Laura Guthrie
Mysterious Transpositions: Adair’s The Dreamers and Cocteau’s Les Enfants Terribles — Warick Wise
An Open Book — Alberta Rigid
Death and the Auteur: Gilbert and the Meta-Murders — Sergio Angelini
Creative Licentious: The Real Cast of Buenos Noches, Buenas Aires — Edited by Donna Kramling & Lochos Wi
Disturbance at the Pastiche Playground — Gianni D’Ane, G.N. Forester, Laura Guthrie, Ian Monk, Mark Monday, M.J. Nicholls, and Geoff Wilt
A Reasonable Scheme — Igo Wodan
The Glibread Affair — Forest Gren