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La télévision

3.64  ·  Rating Details ·  395 Ratings  ·  41 Reviews
The self-possessed protagonist and narrator of Jean-Philippe Toussaint's novel is an acedemic on sabbatical in Berlin. He plans to write a groundbreaking study of Titian, but after a couple of months, all he's completed is "When Musset." He blames his obsession with watching TV for preventing him from writing more, so he decides to stop watching television all together (af ...more
Paperback, 269 pages
Published January 1st 1997 by Les Editions de Minuit
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Aug 29, 2013 Jonfaith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sigh, I harbor such hopes. My focus is so soon to sparkle and then, bam, my attentions/intentions dip or are upheaved. There I go. August was quite good to me. I loved every line of Javier Marias. I knew the Premier League was upon me and I thought I would maintain this bliss with Traveler of the Century and that didn't happen. Distractions piled. Football (soccer) was blooming and suddenly. I was lost. It didn't help that the heat normally associated with August finally arrived. Honestly I pick ...more
Nov 17, 2010 Eugene rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
life in the eurozone! across the pond there's a fabled land, a kingdom beating us into decline and empire's twilight by a scant half-century. they say of it that democratic socialism is a viable political party there, but we're skeptical of the outrageous. rumor also describes a state-subsidized intelligentsia so embedded and entitled it flirts constantly with bourgeois decadence -- before collapsing into spasms of marxist self-flagellation. (our native, barbaric artists dream nightly of immigra ...more
Humorous and philosophical contemporary (1997) French fiction from Les Editions de Minuit, a publishing house born out of the French Resistance during WWII and noted for its catalog of avant-garde and, more recently, postmodern novels. La Television tells the story of a French historian on sabbatical in Berlin, ostensibly to write a study on the artist Titian Vecellio. Late in the novel he realizes that Titian's initials are T.V., an amusing coincidence, since, while his pregnant wife and young ...more
In this short novel the Belgian author, Jean-Philippe Toussaint charmed me with his wry comic touch. The book is a humorous view of the effect of television on the lives of some people and how they change as a result. The protagonist of La Télévision makes one of the most daring gestures available to a citizen of our contemporary world: he decides to stop watching television. Television has taken over his life in insidious ways. It has made him a spectator, rather than a doer; he has become indi ...more
Rose Gowen
I liked a lot of this. A lot of it I liked very much.

A man (the back copy says he's an academic, so I guess he must be) is on a grant in Berlin to write a book about Titian. It's summer. His pregnant wife/partner & son are vacationing in Italy. He's having a little trouble getting started with his writing because he can't decide what name to use for Titian in the text. He quits watching TV. He agrees to water his neighbors' plants. He swims. He hangs out with his friend. He thinks about stuf
Jeff Buddle
Apr 23, 2015 Jeff Buddle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Perfect Toussaint. Comic with a touch of Beckett, with a dash of Chaplin. Funny as hell. So funny in fact that it's a little scary. Prose that you can cut apart and still not understand how it works. How is so little so interesting?
Colin Cox
Television is an oddly paced but beautifully rendered satire of contemporary culture's obsession with technological distractions. Television was originally published in 1997 (its English translation came much later in 2004), so the references are a little archaic. In fact, this book feels rather comfortable situated beside 90s pop staples such as Fight Club. While the narrative itself is underwhelming, the book's success is located in its passively unmotivated but hopelessly idealistic narrator. ...more
An academic acquires a grant to write a book on the painter Titian in Berlin for the summer, while his wife and son vacation in Italy. Early on in his time in Berlin, he decides that television has become too distracting and he swears it off while he works on his book (If this doesn't sound like a pretentious plot, I don't know what does). This proves more difficult than he expected and instead of being distracted by television, our academic quickly finds other ways to procrastinate: swimming, m ...more
Romain X.
Oct 23, 2015 Romain X. rated it it was amazing
Shelves: blog
Je revois très bien le geste que j’ai accompli alors, un geste très simple, très souple, mille fois répété, mon bras qui s’allonge et qui appuie sur le bouton, l’image qui implose et disparaît de l’écran. C’était fini, je n’ai plus jamais regardé la télévision.

C’est lors d’un été passé à Berlin que le narrateur et personnage principal de ce roman a pris cette terrible et irrévocable décision — pour les plus jeunes, il devait probablement disposer d'un modèle de télévision à tube cathodique dépou
Feb 20, 2014 Lolo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ce court roman met en scène un professeur qui prend un congé sabbatique en vue d'écrire une étude sur Titien. Seul durant la période estivale, il décrit quelques-uns des événements et occupations qui ponctuent cette période initialement dédiée au travail. Et en filigrane, il décrit son rapport à la télévision, et notamment sa décision d'arrêter de la regarder. Bien que la trame ne soit pas spécialement accrocheuse, j'ai été entrainé agréablement et sûrement dans cette lecture que j'ai trouvée pl ...more
Aug 03, 2011 Annabelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Un historien d'art se fait subventionner pour passer un été à Berlin (au CMB?) afin de rédiger une étude sur l'Art et le pouvoir.

En fait, il n'arrive pas à écrire et glande, en dissertant solitairement sur l'usage de la télévision (Une lucarne de lumière, blabla) qu'il souhaite arrêter (Aussi efficacement qu'on arrête la clope.)

J'ai systématiquement sauté tous les passages sur la télévision (Barbants et trop nombreux) pour me concentrer sur la dérive du chercheur et la difficulté de se trouver f
Sean Masterson
Aug 12, 2011 Sean Masterson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Inspector Clouseau hijinks mixed with a bit of Bernhardian nihilism. I wonder if his humor was aimed at his predecessor Robbe-Grillet and the nouveau roman which tended to eschew the funny like Camus' Plague.

Been really interested in French post-Existentialist lit lately and am planning on following this up with Michel Houellebecq. I'd recommend anything from Dalkey Archive Press if you want to see what the Europeans are up to. Even when the material is flat I still put the book down with a new
Oct 21, 2011 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2011
This is a great funny read. It's like a Thomas Bernhard took a whole bunch of xanax and accepted a challenge from his life-person to use parentheses and paragraph breaks. It's got some really wonderful comedic moments.

I say this about a bunch of writers, I know, but I'm looking forward to reading more (and am quite excited I recently found his _Making Love_ on sale at Third Place Books).
Jun 07, 2013 Katie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Our narrator is an academic who's supposed to be working on a project on Titian/Charles V in Berlin, in service of this he stops watching TV, only to find himself inevitably surrounded by television. The narrator takes a critical tone, which is funny because Toussaint's writing is so sitcom-ish (a clever, actually funny sitcom) - it occurs in scenes and the humor is that of the everyday.
Jul 11, 2016 Arnied rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Incredible prose about the mundane. There are 3 passages which make the whole book but I wasn't really drawn into the story. I like stories more than prose I guess.
Apr 05, 2012 Tim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A self-involved academic narrator allegedly working on a mongraph on Titian while in Berlin reflects on culture, art, and himself as he tries to give up watching television in this ridiculous little story. It is funny and perceptive, but also uneven, with scenes of brilliance and others that I hurried through, maybe uncomfortable as they struck too near my self-indulgent bones.
Feb 25, 2015 Brigid rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 2012
I love the concept of this novel--in the modern day, is it possible to not stumble upon distraction in every moment?--but I couldn't muster up any real feeling for the protagonist and his predicament.

Though quirky and funny at times, it left me feeling a bit whelmed...fittingly, Toussaint is European.
Aug 20, 2008 Kendra rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kendra by: Nathan Mealey
I reread this book in August of 2008.

This book is excellent. My only complaint is the overuse of variations of the word "pensive" - at least once per page. By the end of the book it was very distracting. But still, this is a great book, humorous, witty, and engaging.
Dec 28, 2009 Tom rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of my favorite reads in the past five years. I'm not sure why, but I laughed hard and long throughout the novel. Many of my friends who read it did not find it very funny, but it really struck a chord with me. Probably not a flattering thing to admit...
Marion Linder
Sep 16, 2012 Marion Linder rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Le livre qu'il vous faut si vous cherchez quelque chose de léger mais de tout aussi intelligent. L'épisode de la fougère oubliée dans le frigo des Drescher ou encore de l'attente inconfortable chez une famille allemande moyenne m'ont particulièrement fait rire.
A man gives up watching television, but that is really not pertinent to this novel of the “roman infinitésimal” school. He pretends to work on a thesis. The question of time and being, dissected into moments; water and streaks of light. In French (La télévision).
Jeff Van Campen
Sep 14, 2007 Jeff Van Campen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who overanalyzes their life, the universe or anything
Shelves: fiction
The main character in this book gives up television. Sort of. He spends an entire summer sneaking glimpses of television and reworking a single sentence of a book that may never come into being. The book is both incredibly funny and a little bit disconcerting.
Aug 02, 2010 Eva rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I read this for french class, and thought it would be perfect as I'm also procrastinating on writing my thesis. But this dragged a bit. And I didn't like the main protagonist at all, which didn't help. It's still a good read, just not terribly riveting.
An author can't finish his book because he becomes so obsessed with not watching TV. A great look at the power of television and peasant's revolt of the Luddite. Also a dead on analysis for anyone who has procrastinated finishing an important paper.
Feb 01, 2011 Tuck rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dalkey-archive
this starts out very funny, normal seeming, but then as the academic becomes more manic and frustrated by not being able to write, paranoia strikes deep. All because of TELEVISION. even turned off, they still affectyour life.
Dec 06, 2010 Mike rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The whimsical adventures of an academic avoiding work at any cost. The protagonist's constant self-analysis keeps things humming along, but some of the comic situations he finds himself in fall flat.
Chris Schaeffer
May 10, 2011 Chris Schaeffer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is my favorite Jean-Philippe Toussaint novel. It reads to me so much like a long-lost novelized Tati movie, maybe about Monsieur Hulot's cranky academic brother.
Alex Kudera
Oct 14, 2010 Alex Kudera rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In my opinion, this is Toussaint's best. I have a top-ten list dedicated to this book at
Mar 09, 2014 Steven rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
All of Toussaint's fictions begin to run together which is not a bad thing; I think Monsieur or The Truth about Marie are his best.
Apr 15, 2010 Géraldine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: belgique
Je l'ai lu deux fois et j'ai beaucoup aimé cette réflexion sur notre société de l'image. ON sourit souvent. Un auteur que j'apprécie.
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Jean-Philippe Toussaint (born 29 November, 1957, Brussels) is a Belgian prose writer 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. The 2006 book La mélancolie de Zidane (Paris: Minuit, 2006) is a lyrical essay on the headbutt administered by the ...more
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“For the painful essence of withdrawal does not reside in the present suffering it brings - withdrawal is painless on the level of the immediate moment - but in the prospect of suffering to come, the rich future that one can imagine one's torture enjoying.” 2 likes
“For where books, for instance, always offer a thousand times more than they are, television offers exactly what it is, its essential immediacy, its ever-evolving, always-in-progress superficiality.” 1 likes
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