, Volume 97, Issue 3, pp 481-495

The Poetics of the Red Card: Ludics in Jean-Philippe Toussaint’s La Salle de bain

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Abstract

This paper examines the use of sports and games (soccer, tennis, scrabble, and darts) as poetic and thematic devices in Jean-Philippe Toussaint’s La Salle de bain. The spaces of sports and games (be they playing fields, dart boards, tennis courts, etc.) not only situate the narration (including the location and time of narration), but also gesture towards a community that the narrator is not fully capable of joining. The first part of this paper posits that sports and games in the form described by Toussaint’s novel are not the socializing activities that play theory imagines them to be, but rather serve to show the narrator’s isolation. The second part of this paper explains the relationship of ludics and literary history in Toussaint’s work as anti-ludic; the novel toys with the highly regulated/rule-bound novels of predecessors such as Nabokov, Robbe-Grillet and the members of OULIPO (Ouvroir de la littérature potentielle). In the conclusion, the essay posits that this anti-ludic tendency might be extended in order to posit the “post-ludic” as an important component of the contemporary novel in France and around the world.