Jean-Philippe Toussaint

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Dalkey Archive Press
6271 E 535 North Road
McLean, IL 61754

Jean-Philippe Toussaint is a Belgian writer. He began writing in 1979 after having read Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. In Toussaint’s account, “I do not know if it is necessary to see a direct link, but in any case…a month after having read Crime and Punishment I began to write.” In the years following, Toussaint has written nine books, including the award-winning Running Away (2005), that have each been translated into more than twenty languages. Dalkey Archive Press is his American publisher.

His first novel, The Bathroom (1985) was started in a room in Tournelles, and the first edition only took a month to complete. The Bathroom is narrated by a man in his late twenties who is living in Paris. As the title suggests, the story centers around the bathroom, where the protagonist devotes most of his time hiding out. Eventually he resolves to leave the bathroom, a decision that leads to rather uneventful adventures, but he always returns to his hideout. 

With his unique style Toussaint has certainly left a mark in the world of literature. He claims to glean ideas from his personal experiences and writes in a minimalist fashion. While the ideas buried between the pages tend to be philosophical, the titles of his books and the actual writing are rather simple. Through this medium of writing, Toussaint conveys complex ideas that manifest in the mendacity of everyday life.

David Isaacson