Synopses & Reviews
"This sparse and stylized novel by Toussaint (Monsieur) pursues the listless cerebral meanderings of a Parisian man as he falls in love with the clerk at his driving-education school. The first-person narrator, who enjoys an uneventful life of indeterminate employment, reading newspapers and thinking, begins hanging out with the languid young lady at the driver's ed office, a sleepy divorced single mother named Pascale Polougaevski. Throughout, the narrator's mind wanders (his thoughts are like 'a moving stream that is best left alone so that it can expand... creating innumerable and magnificent branchings'), and while the two are on the ferry back to Dieppe, the narrator finds an abandoned Instamatic camera. Despite the dramatic ramifications of the titular find, the camera and the inexpert pictures taken with it turn out to hold no more significance than any other chance event. Absurdist and pretentious, Toussaint's close observations of nothing in particular possess a few hilarious moments, but the mundane is much more in evidence." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Simply, put, Jean-Philippe Toussaint is one of the most original novelists working today, and will almost undoubtedly go down as one of the great comic writers of our era. Toussaint has been likened to some diverse artists (Jim Jarmusch, Samuel Beckett, Nicholson Baker), but perhaps the most apt comparison is to Charlie Chaplin, for a few reasons. 1) Like Chaplin, he turns regular-life situations into comedy by the slightest and subtlest exaggerations; 2) He loves stills, moments when our attention freezes on some detail of everyday life and it strikes us as ridiculous; 3) His stories move from scene to scene with often only the flimsiest excuse for an over-reaching plot, although what we come away with is not just a patchwork of set pieces but rather a surprising feeling of melancholy. Toussaint's contemporary existentialism is as poignant as it is funny. As the narrator of Toussaint's novel Monsieur says in his closing line: Life, mere child's play, for Monsieur.