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Albert Cossery's last Siesta in Paris

The cult author, famous for his indolence and libido, closes his eyes for the last time.

Albert Cossery was a lazy old sod - a relic from the past who looked, of late, as if he felt he had outstayed his welcome. Always dressed to the nines, this dandy anarchist could be observed sitting in the legendary Café de Flore, casting an Olympian eye over the aimless crowds outside, biding his time. His militant idleness coupled with a strange mummified existence blurred the boundary between life and death for so long that his passing away, last month, could almost have gone unnoticed - had he not been a living legend.

The cult author moved to Paris from his native Cairo in 1945 and soon became a fixture of the Saint-Germain-des-Prés boho scene. His friends included some of the most influential writers and artists of the last century: Sartre, Genet, Vian, Queneau,Tzara, Giacometti and others. Lawrence Durrell championed his first book - a brilliant collection of short stories entitled Men God Forgot (1940) - and Henry Miller ensured it got published Stateside. He even picked up girls - lots of them - with Albert Camus. According to legend (that word again), Durrell informed the American secret services that Cossery could not possibly be a spy, as they suspected, because he spent most of his time shagging. By the early 90s, he was claiming more than 3,000 female conquests.

Sex aside, Cossery never believed in exerting himself. His very name evokes divine indolence: avoir la cosse is a colloquial expression meaning to be bone idle. True to his moniker, he spent his life resisting any work ethic that prevents people from enjoying "the Edenic simplicity of the world". He often showed off his delicate hands, explaining, somewhat provocatively, that they had not toiled in 2,000 years. And when a journalist inevitably enquired why he wrote, he answered that he hoped his books would prompt readers to pack in their jobs.

For Cossery, idleness was more than a way of life. It afforded him the greatest luxury of all: the time to contemplate - to think or observe - and therefore the opportunity to be fully alive, "minute by minute". This accounts for the constant connection he establishes between destitution and nobility, which is reflected, for instance, in the beautiful descriptions of glistening gobbets of spit, or light playing upon puddles of piss. The author claimed that he always felt like the son of a king, even when he was penniless - or rather, especially when he was penniless, just like the university professor in Proud Beggars(1955) who finally feels like a million dollars after electing to become a pauper. The lesson here is that those who reject (or are deprived of) material wealth gain access to a heightened state of consciousness. When Cossery died, the French Culture Minister described him as a "prince", even though he owned little more than the clogs he had just popped.