May 13, 2005

Tristan Egolf


Found out today that Tristan Egolf killed himself. Read about it: here. I read his novel Lord of the Barnyard. I have to admit I didn’t completely like it. I probably shouldn’t offer criticism when commemorating someone, but it wouldn’t be the first time that an opinion was ill placed. Whatever, it’s true. It’s in the Pynchon vain, which is not my thing. It's more Pynchon than Charles Bukowski. I didn’t love the book, but I respected the ambition, the place it came from. I was drawn to the book somehow. New underground writer on the rise. He was discovered in Paris and then published by Grove Press, lord of all publishers, so there might have been jealousy in my reading of the book.

I remember him talking about the novel on the Leonard Lopate show when I lived in New York. He mentioned how when he wrote the book, he was dead while he wrote it. His suicide puts this into a different perspective, but at the time I thought, Yeah. I had just finished writing a novel and I was kind of dead to the world while I was writing it. His sentiment stuck with me--that interview was probably seven or eight years ago. It felt good to hear it from someone else’s mouth, especially a writer who was my age and successful.

I think I’ll pick up Lord of the Barnyard again this weekend.


Anonymous said...


1. Was that his real name ? Trsitian Egolf? sounds like a very Frenchy pen name...

2. How was he really discovered/

3. Why did Gallimard the French publisher who discovered him first have a very famous and expensive translator translate the unpublished manuscript into French before an English edition appeared? He was the same trasnlator Remy Lambrecht who tanslated Saul Bellow for French readers, long ago? WHAt?

3.5 wAS THE Book really rejected by 70 USA publishers first as the PR hype claimed and did this PR hype in any way play into the author's depressive states? Like he knew he was living a lie?

3. There might be a bit of PR hype going on here. The French website says
that Patrick Modiano's daughter by complete chance saw Egolf busking
in the streets of Paris on a cold and rainy day and she later invited
him to have coffee with her. One thing led to another, presumbably,
and he showed her....his......manuscript.......which he just by
coincidence had with him in his busking bag....and she at once fell in
love went home and showed the manuscript to her
dad the famous novelist Patrick Modiano who exclaimed, wow, this is
some find, we must get the guy published before 70 other publishers in
the USA who already rejected it give it a second he
showed to the editorial board at his publisher....who
immediately read it in English, had it translated into French and
voila, the novel appeared first in French in Paris, after the sad dumb
stupid USA rejected this genius 70 times, repeat, 70 times.....and
then with partner Picador in the UK, an English edition was born, and
them the dumb stupid innocent childish USA which had rejected said
manuscript 70 times, repeat, 70 times, finally Grove Atlantic, which
is a cut above the rest, picked it up for US readers. But it all began
on a cold and rainy November day in Paris when Marie Modiano by pure
chance saw Tristan playing his guitar on the street and invited him
home for coffee. Now does anyone really believe this PR hype that
might have even contributed in some way to the writer's early death ?
Why ? Because playing fast and loose with the facts just for PR hype
and marketing hype -- the new Americaine genius ! -- might have played
into Tristan's battles with living an honest life....



Anonymous said...

RIP: Tristan Egolf . . .
Tristan Egolf, a young novelist who had achieved some glowing reviews for his first novel, and some notoriety for his protests against President George W. Bush, has died, an apparent suicide, at age 33. As a Lancaster County Intelligencer report by Bernard Harris details, Egolf "was widely known locally as the leader of the Smoketown Six, a group of young men who were arrested in July when they attempted to protest President George W. Bush's campaign stop in East Lampeter Township. The six men were taken into custody after they stripped to thongs and piled into a pyramid along Route 340 in imitation of an Abu Ghraib prison–abuse photo." In the literary world, meanwhile, he had "received literary acclaim for the 2000 publication of his first book, Lord of the Barnyard with Grove/Atlantic, with whom he had published four more novels. Harris reports that at Grove/Atlantic, "there was an audible gasp from the women in the publicity department when told of Egolf's passing." Publicity v.p. Judy Hottensen told the paper, "He was an extremely talented, inventive and adventurous writer. He sold all over the world, especially in France. He was considered a rising star in the literary world." His newest novel, Korn Wolf, was already completed and slated to be released soon.

Anonymous said...

i knew tristan for fifteen years, in philadelphia and nyc, and never knew him to use any other name. it is his birth name.

Anonymous said...

Tristan was his birth name - I went to high school with him.

Anonymous said...

There really is a very interesting only-in-America backstory about Tristan Egolf's
life and suicide, it now turns out after reviewing material on the
Internet, from Google searches to Yahoo windows, and even though the
American media has
still not reported much on this after he killed himself earlier in the
year, here is some more information. This is all
meant as a healing.

According to Internet searches, Tristan Egolf was the biological son of the
writer and journalist
Brad Evans, and his paternal grandfather was a man named Warren "Bing"
Evans...of WWII
''Darby's Rangers''.

Earlier reports mentioned that Tristan's natural
father was a journalist in Europe when Tristian was born there, in Spain in fact, but the media never said what his name was. Nor did they inform that
Brad Evans tragically committed suicide himself, in 1987...

Or that .....Brad Evans was also a brilliant
writer (Norman Mailer is said to have once sent him a fan letter about Evans' published short
stories in print somewhere), or that....he also worked as a roving political campaign manager
and newspaper commentary writer for
some ultra-right-wing operatives, so much so that he incurred the wrath
of some West Coast liberals and progressives.

According to Internet sources, Tristan's father Mr. Brad Evans was a
brawny 6'6" blond, bearded Viking/Hemingwayesque macho man (think
with the bulls in Pamplona, and stuff like that, all true, they say), and he was
also an international traveller adventurer (including
rebuilding post-earthquake villages in Guatemala as a volunteer with Catholic
charities). Brad Evans once personally met with PLO leader Yassir
Arafat during the early 1980s
in Beirut, perhaps for a news interview.

In addition, Tristan's ''godfather '' when he was born was none other than William F. Buckley, the famous
conservative writer and publisher of The National Reviewa rightwing monthly magazine -- Brad Evans
was once a close friend of Willim F. Buckley.

In addition, according to Internet websites, "California" magazine
published two articles about Brad Evans' flamboyant, gifted life and
personal style during the early-mid-1980s, when he was working as a
campaign manager for ultra-rightwing Senator John Schmitz of Orange
Richard Trainor was the reporter who covered Evans, and the pieces he
wrote were high drama, indeed. In fact, they were eerily
prognosticative, one might say, upon reading them now.

Both father and son were apparently sufferers of
depression, and this was never explained in the media before.

Of course, like all people, fans everywhere were saddened by Tristan's gruesome choice of
exit-strategies. May he rest in eternal peace, and may
there be closure all around, among Tristan's many fans and readers,
among his publishers both in Europe and in the USA, and among literary
critics and reviewers around the world. And, of course, for his
surviving family members, mother, father, sister, daughter Orly, and Karla, all...... There is no doubt that
Tristan Egolf was loved by many.

Anonymous said...

A tragic, and familial, ending

By Alex Beam, Boston Globe Columnist
June 30, 2005

The recent death of 33-year-old Tristan Egolf, a novelist cursed with promise at an early age, has given rise to a literary detective story. Obituaries published last month failed to name Egolf's birth father, Brad Evans, a flamboyant writer, political activist, and right-wing adventurer who shared many of his son's gifts and demons -- and who, like his son, died by his own hand.

Egolf's brief life story reads like a fairy tale. A punk rocker turned street busker in Paris, he struck up an acquaintance with the daughter of Patrick Modiano, a prominent French author and screenwriter (''Lacombe Lucien"). Modiano helped publish Egolf's first novel, ''Lord of the Barnyard," in France. Subsequently published in Britain and the United States, ''Barnyard" received gushing reviews. Le Monde likened Egolf to Mark Twain, J.P. Donleavy, and Cormac McCarthy. The French daily and the Times of London both compared Egolf -- presciently, it turned out -- to John Kennedy Toole, the talented New Orleans novelist who killed himself at age 32.

Outside his writing, Egolf achieved some renown as a political agitator. In July 2004, Egolf and a group of friends -- the ''Smoketown Six" -- were arrested in Lancaster, Pa., for stripping down to thong underwear and piling on top of one another during a visit by President Bush, to protest the treatment of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison. Also last year, he organized an anti-Columbus Day rally and burned President Bush in effigy. You can hear Egolf discuss his protests on his multimedia website,

The trajectory of Egolf's life eerily parallels that of his birth father, Evans, who was divorced from Egolf's mother, Paula, when Tristan was a little boy. (Tristan was adopted by his stepfather, Gary Egolf.) Evans was a University of Louisville football star who worked on riverboats and at a small newspaper in Kentucky before drifting into the ambit of William F. Buckley's National Review magazine. Buckley's sister Patricia and her husband, L. Brent Bozell Jr., were Tristan's godparents.

Moving further to the right in a society that was tilting leftward, Evans became a speechwriter for right-wing politicians and a publicist/activist for extreme-right fringe groups such as Bozell's militantly prolife Sons of Thunder, which had declared ''a state of war" between the Catholic Church and the US government. At the end of his life, Evans claimed to have been engaging in paramilitary operations in Central America, according to his father, Warren Evans, and Amber Faith, the mother of Brad Evans's third child. All of his children -- Tristan, Gretchen, and Siegfried -- were named after characters from Wagner operas. ''He was very Wagnerian," says Faith, who lived with Evans for six years.

''Brad was approached constantly by these soldier-of-fortune types -- they really freaked me out," says Faith, who ended her relationship with Evans shortly before his death from a drug overdose in 1987. ''He died under questionable circumstances," says his father. ''It was called suicide."

To what extent, if any, was Tristan Egolf's swashbuckling literary and political lifestyle influenced by his father? The two met only a few times before Evans's death, although Tristan later developed a close relationship with his Evans grandparents, living on a farm near them in Indiana a few years ago. ''I had the feeling that Tristan had a crush on Brad," says his godmother, Patricia Bozell. ''Brad was this wonderful, Errol Flynn-like guy. Can you imagine being his son?" ''He remembered his dad very well and rather idolized him," Warren Evans says. ''They were a fascinating and, for a grandfather, a sometimes heartbreaking story."

Why was Brad Evans purged from his son's obituaries? ''I'm speculating, but I think Paula didn't want to share her grief with us," Warren Evans says. ''I know the family has been extremely tight-lipped about Tristan's father," says Judy Hottensen, publicity director at Egolf's publisher, Grove/Atlantic.

Tristan Egolf's third novel, ''Kornwolf," will be published posthumously in January.

Alex Beam is a Globe columnist. His e-dress is

Anonymous said...

Wow... Is there a suicide gene?
Tristian's biological cousin Collin committed suicide yesterday. I was just looking up his orbituary when I came across all of the info on this page.

Anonymous said...

I am Tristan's brother Siegfried Evans...and I have to admit to being touched, now seeing that he had an impact on so many lives, during the course of his own. I regret many of the words we shared when last we spoke, but I will always remember him.

Anonymous said...

Forgive me, I just looked him up on the net. I met Tristan at a book-fest in Seattle, 2002. He signed a copy of his book "The Skirt and the Fiddle" He invited me to have a beer with a couple of his friends, and then we went to see "The Education of Randy Newman"
We had french onion soup at the 13 Coins, and he told me "don't take shit from anyone"

Anonymous said...

What cemetery is he buried at?
Which was his exact address at where he was lived, at Lancaster?

Anonymous said...

Tristan was my lover in the early 90's in Philadelphia. He worked at a liquor store on 13th st. I remember coming home to him passed out on my front stoop one night, he was wearing my dress. He lived on Chesnut St. at the time and we used to sit up on the roof at sundown and he'd play guitar. This was right before he left for Europe.Holland. i made him a patchwork quilt out of pieces of my clothes for him to take.I couldn't go along because of a reason Ill always regret.I was pregnant when he left, he did not know, neither did I. Our daughter is 17. We used to float in the fountains at the art museum and try camping in the city. He drank to much to not have a cathader. I have great photos of him. One with my artwork drawn all over his face. I wonder where the quilt is.Whoever wrote the first comment on this page is an ass.

Anonymous said...

To the lover with the 17 year old girl who commented here above - he always felt terribly guilty about the child, the situation. I remember I told him once that I thought he ought to contact you, and he was considering it.

I lived with them - his cousin, Colin Evans and Tristan - on the "small farm in Indiana" mentioned earlier. 2002-3 was grand, I have to say. We had fun. Colin was one of my best friends, and they fell out shortly after Tristan and I ended our brief affair. They were very much like brothers, more than cousins. I don't think either of them ever really recovered from the wounds the fight cause for both of them. Colin also committed suicide, one year to the date of Tristan's.

I think he, Tristan, has been a bittersweet chapter in many lives. I hope to write the entire story when I get the distance and time needed to consider it and make it into decent writing.

On a personal note to you, though, he once told me that he had written a letter to your girl. I don't know if she ever got it, but I hope she did. He said it was an attempt to explain the way he treated you both... so. If you could find the mother of the last baby, maybe?

You may contact me at if you ever wish to, though I have no idea if I would be of any help. Best to you.

Anonymous said...

So Tristan has three daughters? Wow, he wasn't kidding when he said he wanted to spread his seeds all over the world. I am just glad that, in our three years together, I never got pregnant from him.

Zee said...

Wow. Looks like at least one other person has had a recent interest in learning about Tristan (I see another recent comment on a blog written some 4 years ago.) I didn't even know he was an author. I just happened upon an album by a band that Tristan wrote and sang for called Doomed to Obscurity. Knowing a little more about him puts ALOT of those lyrics into context. Tragic. Utterly tragic.

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