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At the Crime Scene

Adam Shatz: Robbe-Grillet’s Bad Thoughts

30 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, AlainRobbe-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 ...

Short Cuts

John Sturrock: Editions de minuit

14 January 2002
... began writing in French, and then, in the late 1950s, he took on the authors who together became known for a time as the Ecole de Minuit, before entering literary history as the Nouveaux Romanciers: AlainRobbe-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 ...

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 ...

The Only Way

Sam Kinchin-Smith: Culinary Mansplaining

4 January 2018
... an admirably diverse cast of victims are interspersed with discussions of some of history’s ‘higher cribbers’: Borges, Montaigne, Stevenson, Eliot, Mann and Harold Bloom; Michel Tournier and AlainRobbe-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 ...


Giles Gordon: Experimental Sideshows

7 October 1993
... was wrong if he thought that Johnson was taken (Beckett excepted) by ‘French modes’. But I certainly was, and the French writers being published in translation by John Calder were a revelation. AlainRobbe-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 ...

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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... For any serious French writer who has come of age during the last 30 years, one question imposes itself above all others: what do you do after the nouveau roman? AlainRobbe-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 ...

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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... movies that he’s sat through. In a French context, he represents the sly revenge of the linear over the more avant-garde forms of narrative that once aspired to kill the linear off. The premise of AlainRobbe-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 ...

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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... have been bringing out something much closer to a masterpiece. The suggestion isn’t fanciful. Adolfo Bioy Casares’s novel, The Invention of Morel (1940), has a similarly silly ending, but when Alain Resnais and AlainRobbe-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 ...

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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... Micheaux’s movies had on his original audience and confuse his brand of ‘tough love’ with self-hatred. But Micheaux’s racial attitudes are only one reason why his movies are so problematic. AlainRobbe-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 ...
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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... ever managed, or attempted, to be. At the same time, access to high culture became less of a minority prerogative in Argentina – which didn’t help her either. The final straw must have come when AlainRobbe-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 ...

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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... this aspect of composition, and in his methodical pursuit of its possibilities. His constraint-based experiments had a far-reaching influence on 20th-century literature: from the nouveau roman (both AlainRobbe-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 ...


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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... this imaginary friend I have constructed out of sodden crisscrossing strips of rivalry and gratefulness over an armature of remembered misquotation’), he mentions his surprise at being compared to AlainRobbe-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 ...

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, 978 0 415 52911 2
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... writers’. The distinctive dust jackets of the NRF – plain white with austere typography in black 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 ...
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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... immediate good, in giving a by nature discreet person greater visibility, but in the long run it was a pity, because it associated her too strongly with the brutalism of the New Novel’s front man, AlainRobbe-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 ...

Is there hope for U?

Christopher Tayler: Tom McCarthy

20 May 2015
Satin Island 
by Tom McCarthy.
Cape, 192 pp., £16.99, March 2015, 978 0 224 09019 3
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... rather than constructed) self, that self’s command of language, language as vehicle for ‘expression’, and a whole host of fallacies so admirably debunked almost fifty years ago by the novelist AlainRobbe-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 ...

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