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Camera
     

Camera

by Jean-Philippe Toussaint, Matthew B Smith (Translator)
 
In this improbable love story, Toussaint creates a character who is obsessed with himself: how he does things and all the ways he might have done them, how he thinks, why he thinks the way that he thinks, how he might do or think otherwise. What happens? He takes driving lessons, goes grocery shopping, spends endless hours with an adorable employee of the driving

Overview

In this improbable love story, Toussaint creates a character who is obsessed with himself: how he does things and all the ways he might have done them, how he thinks, why he thinks the way that he thinks, how he might do or think otherwise. What happens? He takes driving lessons, goes grocery shopping, spends endless hours with an adorable employee of the driving school he attends. And though he is aloof, though caught up in his own actions and in the movement of his own thoughts—he somehow emerges as surprisingly insightful and also very funny. In Toussaint's touching novel, we come to know this character intimately and yet know almost nothing about him. These two extremes, existing together, are at the heart of Toussaint's remarkable style.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

That "Camera" should have waited 20 years to find an English-language publisher is scandalous.' -Tom McCarthy, New York Times

Dalkey Archive Press

Tom McCarthy
That Camera should have waited 20 years to find an English-language publisher is scandalous. That the wonderful Dalkey Archive has taken on the task is unsurprising. While Toussaint's long, chatty sentences sometimes trick the translator Matthew B. Smith into losing his syntactical thread, this version admirably renders the frankness that makes Toussaint so alluring.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

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 Polougaïevski. 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. (Nov.)

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Library Journal

Does the American reader's desire for plot indicate a lack of sophistication? Considering that within France more contemporary literature translated from English is consumed than the homegrown, maybe not. It seems, rather, to suggest that interest in metafictional text has finally reached a level of exhaustion on the Continent. The acclaimed Toussaint arrives to the American market with a reputation for black humor, suggesting that his is a narrative art. However, this is only partially true. This third novel to be translated into English (after Monsieur ) concerns an unnamed narrator who does remarkably little yet speculates a good deal about such doings. This we learn only from his overuse to the point of meaninglessness of the word pensive . At a slot machine: "pensively lowering the lever." On the pot: "I finally got out of the stall, still just as pensive." And what does he think about? Couldn't say. He becomes involved with a woman, whose name he does not ask until far along in their affair, and steals a camera while on vacation, though less is made of these events than the drudgery of his wholly uninteresting goings-on. Recommended for large fiction collections.-Brendan Curley, Brooklyn Coll.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781564785220
Publisher:
Dalkey Archive Press
Publication date:
11/01/2008
Series:
French Literature Series
Pages:
122
Product dimensions:
4.90(w) x 7.10(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Jean-Philippe Toussaint is the author of nine novels, and the winner of numerous literary prizes, including the Prix Decembre for "The Truth about Marie". His writing has been compared to the works of Samuel Beckett, Jacques Tati, the films of Jim Jarmusch, and even Charlie Chaplin.

Jean-Philippe Toussaint is the author of nine novels, and the winner of numerous literary prizes, including the Prix Decembre for "The Truth about Marie". His writing has been compared to the works of Samuel Beckett, Jacques Tati, the films of Jim Jarmusch, and even Charlie Chaplin.

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