Nov 12, 2008, 05:32AM

"A book must contain darts and philosophy"

Martin Riker, the associate director of Jean-Philippe Toussaint's American publishing company, interviews the man to find out just how his strange little books come to be.

You can find more about Toussaint from the Dalkey Archive website.

MR: What makes a literary work of its time? What makes it contemporary in an interesting or meaningful way? Do you care about being contemporary?

JPT: Literature has no real political or social role to play. Its role is primarily aesthetic. It’s an art. But it must absolutely offer a view of the world. I think writers should necessarily talk about the contemporary world; they should read it, decipher it, and reconstitute it. My choice of having Fuir take place in China, quite independently from my trip there in 2001, brought to light a desire to focus on the present, on the contemporary world as it is being built today, a world that is forever alive, moving on and transforming itself. China represents what is contemporary, in my mind. At some point in Fuir, we’re both in Paris and in China, it’s both daytime and nighttime, and the characters, connected by a cellphone, are both in a night train in China and standing in the sun outside of the Musée du Louvre in Paris. In the past, it would not have been possible to write that scene, for the obvious reason that cellphones did not exist 15 years ago. Starting from a new object of daily life, one discovers a new use of the novel.


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