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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Making Love

Jean-Philippe Toussaint

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To purchase Making Love

Title: Making Love
Author: Jean-Philippe Toussaint
Genre: Novel
Written: 2002 (Eng. 2004)
Length: 114 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Making Love - US
Making Love - UK
Making Love - Canada
Faire l'amour - Canada
Making Love - India
Faire l'amour - France
Sich lieben - Deutschland
Fare l'amore - Italia
  • French title: Faire l'amour
  • Translated by Linda Coverdale

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Our Assessment:

B+ : small, effective novel of love lost

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
L'Express . 3/10/2002 François Busnel
FAZ . 27/9/2003 Richard Kämmerling
L'Humanité . 17/10/2002 Jean-Claude Lebrun
NZZ . 23/9/2003 Martin Krumbholz
Rev. of Contemp. Fiction . Spring/2003 Warren Motte
Sunday Telegraph . 1/5/2005 Julia Flynn
TLS . 1/11/2002 Robin Buss
Die Zeit . 13/11/2003 Verena Auffermann

  Review Consensus:

  No consensus; generally favourable, but some disappointed

  From the Reviews:
  • "Hélas ! Jean-Philippe Toussaint aligne les poncifs, sur fond de politiquement correct sexuel. (...) Jean-Philippe Toussaint ne croit ni à ses personnages ni à son histoire. Il tire donc à la ligne, s'empêtrant dans de longues descriptions vestimentaires ou culinaires entrelardées de considérations à la profondeur toute paulocoelhesque" - François Busnel, L'Express

  • "Eine simple Story, die Toussaint, seit je ein Meister der präzisen Beschreibung, umsetzt in starke, innere und äußere Zu- und Mißstände ineinander spiegelnde Bilder. (...) Toussaints Roman ist so trotz starker Szenen insgesamt mißlungen. Zurück bleibt der Eindruck richtungsloser Aggression, das Gefühl, die Fassaden japanischer Höflichkeit böten nicht ausreichend Gelegenheiten zur heilsamen Triebabfuhr." - Richard Kämmerling, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "La passion, la violence des sentiments ne sont jamais décrites, elles surgissent de cette écriture qui pousse l’art de la suggestion à un point rarement atteint. Qui sait en quelques lignes magistrales aussi bien saisir un paysage urbain que restituer le grouillement montant de la vie au petit matin." - Jean-Claude Lebrun, L'Humanité

  • "Catastrophe comes in many different shapes, of course, and Toussaint speculates incisively on how people react to disaster, whether that disaster be natural or personal. Love is a telluric force, he argues. If the earth moves when people make love, it can move just as powerfully when love is unmade, too." - Warren Motte, Review of Contemporary Fiction

  • "The surprise ending, when the acid is finally deployed, is the weirdest thing in the whole book. I could not make head nor tail of it. Perhaps the scene loses something in translation. But the rest of the story has a brooding power." - Julia Flynn, Sunday Telegraph

  • "The narrator lapses into an almost zen-like state of passivity. Toussaint's narrative is nourished, not by a train of events, but by a succession of states of mind, metaphysical rather than physical happenings. The break-up, when it does (presumably) occur, is not so much the expected rupture as a drifting past one another, as though they had always, in some way, failed to meet." - Robin Buss, Times Literary Supplement

  • "Jean-Philippe Toussaint hat Faire l’amour als kleinen Roman über Todesangst, Tötungstrieb und Verlangen, über Sehnsucht und Härte geschrieben. (...) Der Roman wirft so viel Licht auf das Dunkel schwer fassbarer Gefühle wie David Lynch damals auf Blue Velvet. Die Geschichte ist einfach, wie er sie erzählt, ist eine Kunst." - Verena Auffermann, Die Zeit

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Making Love is, in fact, a story of un-making love, the end of an affair. The narrator and Marie have been together for seven years, but there's little left except a memory of passion. Still: letting go is hard.
       Marie is a sculptor and fashion designer, with her own label: Let's Go Go Go (she's a woman of some urgency, in other words). Invited to exhibit in a museum in Japan she asks her still (if barely) lover to come along, "ready to use up our last reserves of love on this expedition".
       It's not entirely an ill-fated idea and expedition: both know love has come to an end, after all, and it's just a question of the final formalities, a letting go of the last ties that bind them. Japan -- not entirely foreign to them (they've been here before) -- and Marie's professional triumph (in the form of her exhibit) make it as good (or as bad) a place as any.
       Breaking up is hard to do, and the narrator warns from the beginning that he is perhaps not ideally equipped to do so, beginning his story:

I'd had a bottle filled of hydrochloric acid, and I carried it around at all times, with the idea of throwing it right in someone's face.
       And, like a loaded gun, it's always there in ready reserve, as he takes it even to Japan. But Toussaint doesn't offer sensational dramatics; instead he emphasises the realistic. The focus is on the two splitting up -- and how it tears them apart to do so.
       The relationship, especially in it's current, tenuous state is described well, including them making love (or having sex, at least):
No, it was as if she were carefully avoiding any superfluous contact with my skin, any useless touching, any union between our bodies that wasn't sexual. (...) (O)ur grappling had become that struggle between two parallel pleasures, no longer converging but opposed, antagonistic, as if we were fighting over pleasure instead of sharing it
       Not that much happens in the novel, but there's no need for much action. The narrator wonders:
What was I doing right now in Tokyo ? Nothing. Breaking up. But breaking up, I was beginning to realize, was more a state of being than an action, more a period of mourning than a death agony.
       And Making Love describes this period of mourning -- with a few death-throes thrown in.
       Short enough not to weary readers with too much self- and relationship-obsession, Making Love is an effective, atmospheric tale of how difficult even the simplest end of an affair can be: there's nowhere for this couple to go on together, and yet going their separate ways is, at least in its first steps, something they almost can't bear to do. Well-written, it makes for a good, quick, but fairly powerful read.

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Making Love: Reviews: Jean-Philippe Toussaint: Other books by Jean-Philippe Toussaint under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of French literature

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About the Author:

       Jean-Philippe Toussaint was born in Brussels in 1957.

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