This week we'll be discussing our Spring 2006 Read This! pick, Television by Jean-Philippe Toussaint as translated from the French by Jordan Stump (Dalkey Archive). I've already posted about why I nominated the book. We will have posts by LBC members discussing the book, a brief text interview with the translator, and a podcast interview with the translator.
To kick off the discussion, there are two elements of the book that drew me to it again and again. The first is the voice of the narrator. The narrator is our single source of information in the book and throughout the book I wonder how much he is leaving out of his narration. But, while we don't know what he is leaving out, Toussaint makes it clear through the narrator's voice when he is, I won't say lying, distorting the truth. Much of the humor in the book comes from the disconnect between the way the narrator sees himself and the way we can see through what he says to the truth.
The other element that interests me is the structure of the book. There is no real conventional plot, nor even, one might argue, any real change that takes place in the book. The narrator does not come to any revelations. He suffers no tragedies, no real victories or defeats. He just goes about his life, working (a bit) and not working (a lot). In the absence of a unifying plot, Toussaint gives us a repeating motif, the television. The book begins and ends with the silencing of a television set, and in between the narrator is faced at every turn with television sets. For me, these ever present television provide the underlying unity to the novel. This less dramatic, less plotted style novel has a great appeal for me personally, and is something that I enjoy about all Toussaint's novels.
Maybe we can start out hearing what attracted the rest of you to the book, as well as any comments on the above.