Tuesday, 6 August 2013

television [jean-philippe toussaint]

Television is another novel which inhabits the curious novella/ journal territory which seems increasingly popular at the edge of the latest modernist universe.

You, the reader, will accompany me as I take you on a stroll through my curiously disinteresting life. Which is nevertheless full of interesting details. In this instance, I am going to tell you about the monograph on Titian for which I have received a grant which permits me to spend the Summer in Berlin whilst my wife and kids are away but which I cannot motivate myself to write so instead I write about not writing it. Whilst also detailing my solitary adventures as a nudist bather, killing my neighbours' plants and generally not doing what I know I ought to be doing.

You might find it droll. You might find my observations on the role of television in contemporary life incisive. You might not. It doesn’t matter all that much. It’s only a novel after all. I don’t know if I am either droll or incisive. I might be. Sooner or later my wife will return and life will get back to normal and the time of this novel, called television, will have expired. A bit like a television program, in fact. Although I didn’t say that. You did.

I, the writer, not of the novel but of this review of the novel, if indeed it is a review of what can only barely be called a novel, have to confess that in this instance, I did find Toussaint and his meandering prose droll. At times I would even go so far as to say that it was even very funny. However, I would also say that Toussaint could be said to have succeeded in his ambition to create a commentary on the disposable role of television within a disposable society, because when I concluded the book, when I turned it off, it vanished from my mind almost as rapidly as, in the words of Mr Jagger, yesterday’s papers. Though not quite as rapidly. So perhaps it’s not like television after all. Perhaps the additional nano seconds are what make it literature. Entertaining literature, albeit disposable literature. But wasn’t literature once the equivalent of television? Before they had television? Maybe television is only literature in disguise. Or vice versa. And what about Titian? 

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