Dali and I is a supremely readable book. This is due in no small measure to the dubious character of the author. Lauryssens is at once a playboy, thief and confidence trickster – not to mention a successful author. He is so proud of his ability to deceive, that one wonders how much reality there is in this alleged autobiographical work. His actual writing however is suspect, so listening to an audio book beats wading through his convoluted prose.
Stan Lauryssens is a 63-year-old Belgian who oscillates between London and Antwerp. His literary career started by writing fake interviews with Hollywood stars for Panorama magazine. He graduated from this grubby little endeavour to masquerading as an art investment consultant exclusively selling works purporting to be by Salvador Dali. For this, he ended up in jail for an all too brief period.
The book recounts in fantastic detail how he lied and cheated his way from poverty to conspicuous affluence, and back again. He unsuccessfully attempts to assuage his guilt with a veiled suggestion that his ‘marks’ were just as dishonest as he was – perhaps more so. A Robin Hood in Armani suits and exotic motorcars.
At no time does he ever suggest that his actions were anything other than fraudulent; however, I think that this is a moot point. A genuine Dali is one painted and signed by him. There is ample evidence to suggest that Dali stopped painting in the late forties, so every ‘Dali’ since then is a fake. If all the work since the forties is faked, how can one fake be more fake than another fake? Ipso facto, fakes are genuine: or as genuine as you can get. However, it was Lauryssens intention to deceive (mens rea) regardless of the provenance of the goods he sold, he therefore committed the offense of obtaining pecuniary benefit by deliberate deception. That makes him a criminal.
I had the feeling that Lauryssens was working to a deadline as the story became more ragged and fantastic towards the end. Impossible situations were resolved as if by magic. He pleads absolute poverty (wearing the same clothes that he wore in prison etc.), but that does not seem to inhibit his air travel.
Whether or not Mr Lauryssens is deceiving us as he did his luckless clients, I know not. Certainly all the people he exposes are long dead, so there can be no betrayal there. In any event, Dali and I is a very enjoyable read, and I thoroughly recommend it. One is almost encouraged to seek out more of Lauryssens’s work, safe in the knowledge that that really would be fiction.