Jean-Philippe Toussaint

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Jean-Philippe Toussaint
Jean-Philippe Toussaint, Florence (Italie), 2013.JPG
Jean-Philippe Toussaint in 2013
Born (1957-11-29) 29 November 1957 (age 58)
Brussels, Belgium
  • Novelist
  • Screenwriter
  • Director
Nationality Belgian
Alma mater Sciences Po (1978)
Notable works
  • La Salle de bain
  • La Télévision
  • « Cycle of Marie »
Notable awards

Jean-Philippe Toussaint (29 November 1957, Brussels) is a Belgian prose writer, photographer and filmmaker. His books have been translated into more than twenty languages and he has had his photographs displayed in Brussels and Japan. Toussaint won the Prix Médicis in 2005 for his novel Fuir (Running Away), second volume of the « Cycle of Marie », a four-tome chronicle published over ten years and displaying the separation of Marie and her lover.[1] His 2009 novel La Vérité sur Marie (The Truth about Marie), third volume of the cycle, won the Prix Décembre.



Jean-Philippe Toussaint was born in Brussels, son of the Belgian journalist and writer Yvon Toussaint (1933-2013) and a bookseller mother of lituanian ascendance Monique Toussaint (née Lanskoronskis),[2] but mostly raised in Paris where his father was the correspondent in France of the Belgian newspaper Le Soir.[3] He's the brother of the Belgian cinema producer Anne-Dominique Toussaint.

He lives in Brussels and Corsica,[1] where his wife, Madeleine Santandrea (and mother of their two children) is from Bastia.[4]

Early life and education[edit]

Raised in flourishing cultural milieu in Brussels, then after 1970 in Paris where he attended high school, he graduated from the Institut d'études politiques de Paris (1979) and holds a master of Arts in contemporary history from the Sorbonne (1980).[2][5] After his studies, he was engaged in teaching French for two years in Médéa, Algeria as an alternative to conscription;[2][5] he henceforth decided to devote himself to literature, considering cinema to be technically and financially too demanding.

Literary career[edit]

Jean-Philippe Toussaint wrote his first attempts—two plays Rideau (1981) and Les Draps de lit (1982) and a short novel Échecs (1983)—which have never been published. Strongly influenced by Samuel Beckett's style[6] and in a general manner by the Nouveau Roman,[7] he wrote his first novel, La Salle de bain (1985, The Bathroom) and submitted it to Jérôme Lindon, the historical figure of Les Éditions de Minuit in Paris, who accepted it for publication and became his exclusive publisher. The novel and its style were critically acclaimed and settled Jean-Philippe Toussaint as a young and promissing author. Subsequently, he published Monsieur (a novel that furthermore received a large success in Japan and Asia) and L'Appareil-photo in the late 1980s which confirmed his status as a writer[8] and allowed him to start a parallel career as a filmmaker directing two movies: Monsieur (1990)—distinguished by the André Cavens Award—and La Sévillane (1992).

Experiencing a writing residency in Berlin,[5] he wrote in 1997 his most self-ironical and "subtly comic" novel La Télévision[9] which has been awarded by the Prix Victor-Rossel in Belgium. After a transitional essay, Autoportrait (à l'étranger), based on his experiences living abroad he then decided to initiate a long literary cycle (entitled « cycle of Marie Madeleine Marguerite de Montale » but formally known as « cycle of Marie », named after the main protagonist) depicting a long and incertain breakup of two lovers—Marie and the narrator—which span over the four seasons of the year but has been written from 2000 to 2013 and constitutes to date his Magnum opus.[1][6] The « cycle of Marie » started in 2002 with Faire l'amour (Making Love, 2004), followed by Fuir in 2005 (Running Away, 2009)[9]—awarded by the Prix Médicis in France—, La Vérité sur Marie in 2009 (The Truth about Marie, 2011)[6]Prix Décembre—and finally Nue in 2013 which closes the tetralogy.

His 2006 book La Mélancolie de Zidane[10] (2006) is a lyrical essay on the headbutt administered by the French football player Zinedine Zidane to the Italian player Marco Materazzi during the 2006 World Cup final in Berlin, where Toussaint then lived and was present in the stadium. An English translation was published in 2007 in the British journal New Formations.

Along with Jean Echenoz, Laurent Mauvignier, Marie NDiaye or Éric Chevillard, Jean-Philippe Toussaint is associated with the so-called « Style [des éditions de] Minuit ».[11][12]


  • La Salle de bain (Paris, Minuit, 1985)
    • The Bathroom (Champaign, Dalkey Archive Press, 2008), translated by Nancy Amphoux and Paul De Angelis.
  • Monsieur (Minuit, 1986)[13]
    • Monsieur (Champaign, Dalkey Archive Press, 2008),[13] translated by John Lambert.
  • L'Appareil-photo (Minuit, 1989)[8]
    • Camera (Champaign, Dalkey Archive Press, 2008),[8] translated by Matthew B. Smith.
  • La Réticence (Minuit, 1991)
    • Reticence (Champaign, Dalkey Archive Press, 2012), translated by John Lambert.
  • La Télévision (Minuit, 1997);[14] Prix Victor-Rossel
    • Television (Champaign, Dalkey Archive Press, 2007),[14] translated by Jordan Stump.
  • Autoportrait (à l'étranger) (Minuit, 2000)
    • Self-Portrait Abroad (Champaign, Dalkey Archive Press, 2010), translated by John Lambert.
  • La Mélancolie de Zidane (Minuit, 2006), essay
    • "Zidane's Melancholy" within Best European Fiction (Champaign, Dalky Archive Press, 2009), translated by Thangam Ravindranathan and Timothy Bewes
  • L'Urgence et la Patience (Minuit, 2012), essay
    • Urgency and Patience (Champaign, Dalky Archive Press, 2013), translated by Edward Gauvin
  • Football (Minuit, 2015)

« Cycle of Marie »

  • Faire l'amour (Minuit, 2002)
  • Fuir (Minuit, 2005);[9] Prix Médicis
    • Running Away (Champaign, Dalkey Archive Press, 2009),[9] translated by Matthew B. Smith.
  • La Vérité sur Marie (Minuit, 2009);[6] Prix Décembre
    • The Truth about Marie (Champaign, Dalkey Archive Press, 2011),[6] translated by John Lambert.
  • Nue (Minuit, 2013)
    • Naked, still untranslated but presumably forthcoming from Dalkey Archive Press



As a photographer, he hold his first major exhibition in 2001 in Osaka, Japan then later obtained a residency in 2006 in Toulouse, France where he extended his work to installations mixing neons, films, photos and books as supports. This work became also the basis of a more ambitious exhibition which took place in 2009 in Canton, China. In 2012, as invited-artist Toussaint curated an important exhibition entitled "Livre/Louvre" at the Musée du Louvre in Paris. In addition to photographs, original short-films (entitled Trois fragments de "Fuir") and various installations, the show featured an excerpt from the original manuscript of En attendant Godot by Samuel Beckett and a copy of the eighth edition of Dante's Divina Commedia.[15]


  • Elected member (seat #9) of the Académie royale de langue et de littérature françaises de Belgique (2014)[16]


  1. ^ a b c Garcin, Jérôme. "Jean-Philippe Toussaint : "Je suis très connu, mais personne ne le sait..."". Le Nouvel Observateur (in French). Retrieved August 30, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c Crousse, Nicolas (November 13, 2010). "Les Toussaint, itinéraire d’une famille gâtée". Le Soir (in French). 
  3. ^ Duplat, Guy (December 7, 2013). "Yvon Toussaint, mort d’un grand journaliste". Le Soir (in French). 
  4. ^ "Le Bastiais Jean-Philippe Toussaint en lice pour le prix Goncourt 2009". Corse-Matin (in French). November 2, 2009. 
  5. ^ a b c "Jean-Philippe Toussaint's Biography". (in French). Retrieved April 10, 2015.  External link in |website= (help)
  6. ^ a b c d e Lezard, Nicholas (September 6, 2011). "The Truth About Marie by Jean-Philippe Toussaint – review". The Guardian. 
  7. ^ Jacques, Juliet. "Rethinking the detective novel: Jean-Philippe Toussaint’s Reticence". NewStateman. Retrieved July 5, 2012. 
  8. ^ a b c McCarthy, Tom (December 12, 2008). "Tryst and Shoot". The New York Times. 
  9. ^ a b c d Byrd, Christopher (December 24, 2009). "Shanghai Express". The New York Times. 
  10. ^ English translation of La mélancolie de Zidane
  11. ^ Bertrand, Michel; Germoni, Karine; Jauer, Annick (2014). Existe-t-il un style Minuit ? (in French). Université de Provence. p. 274. ISBN 978-2853999397. 
  12. ^ Voisset-Veysseyre, Cécile. "Peut-on parler d’un style Minuit?". Retrieved January 6, 2015. 
  13. ^ a b Danto, Ginger (October 6, 1991). "No Zeal, Please". The New York Times. 
  14. ^ a b Press, Joy (January 2, 2005). "'Television': Le Boob Tube". The New York Times. 
  15. ^ Toussaint, Jean-Philippe. "Livre/Louvre". 
  16. ^ "Jean-Philippe Toussaint". ARLLFB. Retrieved April 12, 2015. 

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