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At the Crime Scene

Adam Shatz: Robbe-Grillet’s Bad Thoughts, 31 July 2014

A Sentimental Novel 
by Alain Robbe-Grillet, translated by D.E. Brooke.
Dalkey Archive, 142 pp., £9.50, April 2014, 978 1 62897 006 7
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... By the time​ he was elected to the Académie française in 2004, Alain Robbe-Grillet had suffered a cruel fate: he had all the renown he could have hoped for but few readers to show for it. The literary movement he’d launched half a century earlier – the nouveau roman – had ground to a halt. The new novel – anti-psychological and anti-expressive, stripped of individualised characters, temporal continuity and meaning itself – was no longer new ...

Short Cuts

John Sturrock: Editions de minuit, 14 January 2002

... for a time as the Ecole de Minuit, before entering literary history as the Nouveaux Romanciers: Alain Robbe-Grillet, Claude Simon, Nathalie Sarraute, Michel Butor and the hugely entertaining and wrongly overlooked Robert Pinget. Beckett in particular, and later the very bankable Robbe-Grillet and Simon, seem never to ...

The Only Way

Sam Kinchin-Smith: Culinary Mansplaining, 4 January 2018

... cribbers’: Borges, Montaigne, Stevenson, Eliot, Mann and Harold Bloom; Michel Tournier and Alain Robbe-Grillet; pretend pretenders to the throne, Perkin Warbeck and Lambert Simnel; Napoleon’s chef Dunand; and ‘the genitally preoccupied Roman epigrammatist Martial’. I found some of the recipes in The Plagiarist in the Kitchen so ...

I resume and I sum up

John Sturrock: Robbe Grillet’s Return, 21 March 2002

La Reprise 
by Alain Robbe-Grillet.
Minuit, 253 pp., €15.09, November 2001, 9782707317568
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... The first novel that Robbe-Grillet wrote, Un Régicide, had a quotation at the start from Kierkegaard, an out of the way source for an agronomist turned writer who gave an impression of never having known a moment’s metaphysical unease in his life. It came from The Seducer’s Diary: ‘One might have said that this man passed through life without leaving any trace … and one might even claim that he had no victims ...

Stabbing the Olive

Tom McCarthy: Toussaint, 11 February 2010

Running Away 
by Jean-Philippe Toussaint, translated by Matthew Smith.
Dalkey, 156 pp., $12.95, November 2009, 978 1 56478 567 1
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La Vérité sur Marie 
by Jean-Philippe Toussaint.
Minuit, 204 pp., €14.50, September 2009, 978 2 7073 2088 9
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... 30 years, one question imposes itself above all others: what do you do after the nouveau roman? Alain Robbe-Grillet, Claude Simon et compagnie redrew the map of what fiction might offer and aspire to, what its ground rules should be – so much so that some have found their legacy stifling. Michel Houellebecq’s response has been one of adolescent ...


Giles Gordon: Experimental Sideshows, 7 October 1993

... was, and the French writers being published in translation by John Calder were a revelation. Alain Robbe-Grillet was God, and his Snapshots and Towards a New Novel (1965) – fiction and criticism between the same covers – was an essential primer. Inanimate objects ruled the world with a greater coherence and rationality than messy, mucky human ...

Lights by the Ton

John Sturrock: Jean Echenoz, 18 June 1998

by Jean Echenoz, translated by Guido Waldman.
Harvill, 122 pp., £8.99, June 1998, 1 86046 449 1
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Un An 
by Jean Echenoz.
Minuit, 111 pp., frs 65, September 1997, 2 7073 1587 7
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... the more avant-garde forms of narrative that once aspired to kill the linear off. The premise of Alain Robbe-Grillet and other New Novelists these many years ago was that stories which advance so sure-footedly from launch-pad to dénouement have had their day, belonging from now on only in the consciousness-lowering darkness of the movie-house, where ...

Dying for Madame Ocampo

Daniel Waissbein, 3 March 1988

‘Sur’: A Study of the Argentine Literary Journal and its Role in the Development of a Culture, 1931-1970 
by John King.
Cambridge, 232 pp., £27.50, December 1986, 0 521 26849 4
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... prerogative in Argentina – which didn’t help her either. The final straw must have come when Alain Robbe-Grillet, in Buenos Aires in 1962 to attend a Pen Club meeting and ‘taken on the “de rigueur” visit to Villa Ocampo’, was said to have observed that the place reminded him of a brothel. There is something strikingly apt in the idea of ...

Earthworm on Zither

Paul Grimstad: Raymond Roussel, 26 April 2012

Impressions of Africa 
by Raymond Roussel, translated by Mark Polizzotti.
Dalkey, 280 pp., £10.99, June 2011, 978 1 56478 624 1
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New Impressions of Africa 
by Raymond Roussel, translated by Mark Ford.
Princeton, 264 pp., £16.95, April 2011, 978 0 691 14459 7
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... experiments had a far-reaching influence on 20th-century literature: from the nouveau roman (both Alain Robbe-Grillet and Michel Butor wrote early appreciations of Roussel) to the monthly meetings of the Oulipo collective, to Jean Echenoz’s pastiche genre novel Lac (which unwinds its espionage caper from the point at which flies, les mouches, become ...

It wasn’t a dream

Ned Beauman: Christopher Priest, 10 October 2013

The Adjacent 
by Christopher Priest.
Gollancz, 432 pp., £12.99, June 2013, 978 0 575 10536 2
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... Bioy Casares’s novel, The Invention of Morel (1940), has a similarly silly ending, but when Alain Resnais and Alain Robbe-Grillet took a similar story as the basis for Last Year at Marienbad they excised the futuristic gadgetry, presenting the same events with no mundane underpinning. Even memory can make such ...

Building an Empire

J. Hoberman: Oscar Micheaux, 19 July 2001

Writing Himself into History: Oscar Micheaux, His Silent Films and His Audiences 
by Pearl Bowser and Louise Spence.
Rutgers, 280 pp., £38.95, August 2000, 0 8135 2803 8
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Straight Lick: The Cinema of Oscar Micheaux 
by J. Ronald Green.
Indiana, 368 pp., £21.95, August 2000, 0 253 33753 4
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... But Micheaux’s racial attitudes are only one reason why his movies are so problematic. Alain Robbe-Grillet wrote of Last Year in Marienbad that either the spectator will try to reconstitute some ‘Cartesian’ schema – the most linear, the most rational he can devise – and this spectator will certainly find the film difficult, if not ...


Christopher Tayler: Nicholson Baker, 3 November 2011

House of Holes 
by Nicholson Baker.
Simon and Schuster, 262 pp., £14.99, August 2011, 978 0 85720 659 6
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... over an armature of remembered misquotation’), he mentions his surprise at being compared to Alain Robbe-Grillet and Francis Ponge by reviewers of his first two books. It’s easy to see how they got there: The Mezzanine – Howie’s footnote-strewn account of a morning at his anonymous corporate workplace, defamiliarised by intricate descriptions ...

‘I’m going to slash it!’

John Sturrock, 20 February 1997

Oeuvres complètes 
by Nathalie Sarraute, edited by Jean-Yves Tadié.
Gallimard, 2128 pp., £52.05, October 1996, 2 07 011434 1
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... a pity, because it associated her too strongly with the brutalism of the New Novel’s front man, Alain Robbe-Grillet. Robbe-Grillet himself was never the literary vandal he found it useful in those days to let it seem that he was, but he was far less studied and shrewd in polemic than Sarraute, who knew that the ...

Is there hope for U?

Christopher Tayler: Tom McCarthy, 21 May 2015

Satin Island 
by Tom McCarthy.
Cape, 192 pp., £16.99, March 2015, 978 0 224 09019 3
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... and a whole host of fallacies so admirably debunked almost fifty years ago by the novelist Alain Robbe-Grillet. Eagleton made the first point more snappily on the opening page of Literary Theory: An Introduction in 1983, taking care to credit the rhetorical move to Keynes’s remark about ‘practical men’ being ‘usually the slaves of some ...

Peas in a Matchbox

Jonathan Rée: ‘Being and Nothingness’, 18 April 2019

Being and Nothingness: An Essay in Phenomenology and Ontology 
by Jean-Paul Sartre, translated by Sarah Richmond.
Routledge, 848 pp., £45, June 2019, 978 0 415 52911 2
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... and red – proclaimed its radical elegance, and it soon had a team of contributors that included Alain-Fournier, Paul Claudel, Jean Giraudoux, Valery Larbaud, Jacques Rivière, Jean Schlumberger and Paul Valéry. Gide then proposed that they branch out into publishing ‘beautiful books’. Neither he nor his colleagues had the means to run a publishing ...

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