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Parody and Palimpsest

Intertextuality, Language, and the Ludic in the Novels of Jean-Philippe Toussaint


Sarah L. Glasco

Parody and Palimpsest: Intertextuality, Language, and the Ludic in the Novels of Jean-Philippe Toussaint adds to the emerging body of work on intertextuality through expansion of critical examinations of the novels of this award-winning author, presenting him as the ultimate magister ludi. Sarah L. Glasco links Jean-Philippe Toussaint’s novels to cross-disciplinary texts that include not only Russian, American, and Japanese literatures, but also film and visual art. Toussaint alludes to the works of numerous French canonical authors, such as Pascal, Flaubert, Gide, Proust, and Apollinaire, with a multicultural mix of Faulkner, Beckett, Nabokov, and Kawabata, for instance, and the works of filmmakers, painters, and ancient philosophers like Wong Karwai, Mark Rothko, and Aristotle. Ultimately, intertextuality in Toussaint’s novels is linked to global cultures and new media via his contemporary literary landscapes. This in-depth study reveals, presents, and analyzes a multiplicity of intertexts, depicting the inner workings of their playful relationships to the texts as a whole, how they are intricately interwoven into Toussaint’s narratives, and also how they relate to one another. Through a process of rereading and reinterpreting Toussaint’s texts, Parody and Palimpsest illuminates both linguistic and narrative subversions, parodies, and pastiches, and, subsequently, Toussaint’s ludic landscapes emerge. Readers are then able to unmask other identities his texts can embody in order to rediscover them through the language, literature, art, products, and thus culture of others.
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Chapter 6. The Misadventures of Marie: A 21st Century Tetralogy


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A 21st Century Tetralogy

The Sexual Evolution of Toussaint’s Literary Lovers

The publication of Toussaint’s sixth novel, Faire l’amour, in September 2002, made questioning the validity of all of the previous literary classifications of his works inevitable. With a five-year lapse between La Télévision and Faire l’amour, this novel in particular is somewhat of a departure from his previous works. Nevertheless, critics, readers, and scholars often take for granted what they perhaps believe to be a certain consistency in his writing. For many critics, this author’s writing became predictable; many of them tended to read his novels the same way, often seeing the same things. It is curious to note that despite the fact that this novel boasts being among the ten best novels of 2002 according to Le Point, a few critics were still baffled and disappointed by it.1 Aude Lancelin, for example, wanted to know in her review from the Nouvel observateur why there was “tant d’amour” for Faire l’amour. In like manner, the title of François Busnel’s article “Amour déçu; On avait attendu le dernier roman de Jean-Philippe Toussaint. On avait tort,” tells a story in itself. Busnel saw this novel as “vide, lent et lourd,” these being Toussaint’s exact words in the novel to describe how the narrator was feeling after having left Marie; Busnel lamented the humorous days of La Salle de bain. In like manner,...

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