cover image Camera


Jean-Philippe Toussaint, , trans. from the French by Matthew B. Smith. . Dalkey Archive, $12.95 (122pp) ISBN 978-1-56478-522-0

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.)