Jean-Philippe Toussaint

Jean-Philippe Toussaint

Jean-Philippe Toussaint in 2013
Born (1957-11-29) 29 November 1957
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

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

Jean-Philippe Toussaint's first two plays Rideau (1981) and Les Draps de lit (1982) and his short novel Échecs (1983) have never been published. He is strongly influenced by Samuel Beckett's style[6] and generally by the Nouveau Roman.[7] He wrote his first novel, La Salle de bain (The Bathroom) in 1985 and submitted it to Jérôme Lindon, the influential publisher of Les Éditions de Minuit in Paris, who accepted it and became his exclusive publisher. The novel and its style were critically acclaimed and established Jean-Philippe Toussaint as a young and promising author. Subsequently, he published Monsieur (a novel that was earned a large following 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. He directed two movies soon after: Monsieur (1990)—distinguished by the André Cavens Award—and La Sévillane (1992).

During a writing residency in Berlin[5] in 1997 he wrote his most ironic and "subtly comic" novel La Télévision[9] which won the Prix Victor-Rossel in Belgium. After publishing an essay, Autoportrait (à l'étranger), based on his experiences living abroad, he then decided to embark on a series of novels (entitled « cycle of Marie Madeleine Marguerite de Montale » but formally known as « cycle of Marie », named after Marie, the main protagonist) depicting the long and uncertain breakup of two lovers—Marie and the narrator—over four seasons during the course of a year. The books were written between 2000 and 2013 and constitute 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 French football player Zinedine Zidane's headbutting of the Italian player Marco Materazzi during the 2006 World Cup final in Berlin. Toussaint lived in Berlin at the time and was at the game. 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]


« Cycle of Marie »



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]



  1. 1 2 3 Garcin, Jérôme. "Jean-Philippe Toussaint : "Je suis très connu, mais personne ne le sait..."". Le Nouvel Observateur (in French). Retrieved 30 August 2013.
  2. 1 2 3 Crousse, Nicolas (13 November 2010). "Les Toussaint, itinéraire d'une famille gâtée". Le Soir (in French).
  3. Duplat, Guy (7 December 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). 2 November 2009.
  5. 1 2 3 "Jean-Philippe Toussaint's Biography". (in French). Retrieved 10 April 2015.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 Lezard, Nicholas (6 September 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 5 July 2012.
  8. 1 2 3 McCarthy, Tom (12 December 2008). "Tryst and Shoot". The New York Times.
  9. 1 2 3 4 Byrd, Christopher (24 December 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 6 January 2015.
  13. 1 2 Danto, Ginger (6 October 1991). "No Zeal, Please". The New York Times.
  14. 1 2 Press, Joy (2 January 2005). "'Television': Le Boob Tube". The New York Times.
  15. Toussaint, Jean-Philippe. "Livre/Louvre".
  16. "Jean-Philippe Toussaint". ARLLFB. Retrieved 12 April 2015.
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