cover image Monsieur


Jean-Philippe Toussaint, Jean-Philippe Toussaint. Marion Boyars Publishers, $19.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-7145-2911-0

Whereas the nameless occupant of Toussaint's first book, The Bathroom , chooses a physical immobility, the nameless Monsieur of his second novel is blessed with mental inertia. Monsieur is a highly paid commercial director of Fiat France, who goes to Cannes, types a treatise on crystals, attends a dinner party with the secretary of State, finds a new lover--all without showing any appreciable effort or affect. ``Monsieur displayed in all things a listless drive.'' So does the book. Where most novels are fueled by psychological motivation and emotional impact, Monsieur offers the hero's faineancy, trundled along by Toussaint's matter-of-fact way with the absurd: ``Monsieur's brother had two little girls, Monsieur's nieces, twins of six and six,'' or ``A young man . . . asked him, rather nervously, if the seat next to his was free; Monsieur looked at the seat, which was in fact free, it would have been difficult to deny it.'' In short (and this narrative is short--128 pages), if Tati were a yuppie, he might be Monsieur. (July)