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It isn’t your home

Toril Moi: Sarraute gets her due, 10 September 2020

Nathalie SarrauteA Life Between 
by Ann Jefferson.
Princeton, 425 pp., £34, August 2020, 978 0 691 19787 6
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... When I mentioned​ to a friend that I was going to review a biography of Nathalie Sarraute, his first question was: ‘Will she last?’ I hesitated to reply. First of all, it’s not clear what it means for a writer to ‘last’. Do we mean that she wrote books that will be read for pleasure for centuries, like Pride and Prejudice and Anna Karenina? Sarraute was too avant-garde – too highbrow – to compete with Austen in the popularity stakes ...

‘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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... Nathalie Sarraute had her own, esoteric way of doing well at school. When, at her Paris lycée, her class was asked whether anyone had read War and Peace, the 13-year-old Nathalie (née Natalya Tcherniak, in Russia), did not want to say that she had. She was fearful: not of advertising how grown-up her reading had already become but of what she might have to listen to should her teacher ‘dare to touch’ the book and the ineffable Tolstoy be invested by the crass discourse of a pedagogue ...

Letting out the Inner Pig

James Peach: Marie Darrieussecq, 16 September 1999

My Phantom Husband 
by Marie Darrieussecq, translated by Helen Stevenson.
Faber, 153 pp., £9.99, July 1999, 0 571 19663 2
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... Butor and Claude Simon, from her studies of recent French literature or from her knowing Nathalie Sarraute. She realises that there is some common ground between her writing and that of the grande dame of French literature: ‘Je cherche sans doute quelque chose de l’ordre de ce que cherche ...

Short Cuts

John Sturrock: Editions de minuit, 14 January 2002

... 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 have thought of being published by anyone else, even if it did mean ...

Short Cuts

Joanna Biggs: Marguerite Duras, 6 October 2016

... Duras liked other women if they were actresses; she loathed Simone de Beauvoir but counted Nathalie Sarraute as one of her closest friends. She was wary of feminism as one of ‘all these rather obtuse forms of activism that don’t always lead to true female emancipation’. (She’d left the Communist Party in the late 1950s and saw Marxism as ...

Really fantastic

A.D. Nuttall, 18 November 1982

A Rhetoric of the Unreal: Studies in Narrative and Structure, especially of the Fantastic 
by Christine Brooke-Rose.
Cambridge, 380 pp., £25, October 1981, 0 521 22561 2
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... can be sharp, philosophically. She is attracted by the proposition: ‘Formalism is realism.’ Nathalie Sarraute had argued that so-called realists were really formalists because they imitated the forms of their predecessors. This left the obscure apodosis: ‘The formalists are the true realists.’ If this is allowed to ripen into the full ...


Lorna Sage: Henry Green, 25 January 2001

Romancing: The Life and Work of Henry Green 
by Jeremy Treglown.
Faber, 340 pp., £25, September 2000, 0 571 16898 1
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... of The Magic Christian and the famously dirty book Candy); or the French New Novelist Nathalie Sarraute, who singled out Green and Ivy Compton-Burnett as (after the demise of Woolf) the most original and distinctive voices in British writing. Southern managed to coax out of Green, who was notoriously inarticulate (and not just from the ...

Mon Charabia

Olivier Todd: Bad Duras, 4 March 1999

Marguerite Duras 
by Laure Adler.
Gallimard, 627 pp., frs 155, August 1998, 2 07 074523 6
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No More 
by Marguerite Duras.
Seven Stories, 203 pp., £10.99, November 1998, 1 888363 65 7
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... the Nouveau Roman. She felt much too superior to Claude Simon, Robbe-Grillet and Michel Butor. Nathalie Sarraute was almost the only living French writer she approved of. These were the years of Sartre’s ascendancy. MD, however, steered clear of the arch-guru and despised Camus. At the same time she tried, unsuccessfully, to publish short stories in ...

How to do the life

Lorna Sage, 10 February 1994

Writing Dangerously: Mary McCarthy and Her World 
by Carol Brightman.
Lime Tree, 714 pp., £20, July 1993, 0 413 45821 0
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... smaller ones with figures like the aged Bernard Berenson, and the aborted ones with figures like Nathalie Sarraute. The book’s last major episode before the final act is supplied by the 1980 Lillian Hellman libel suit, when she sued McCarthy for repeating on television what she’d already said in print – that every word Hellman wrote was a ...

Bites from the Bearded Crocodile

G. Cabrera Infante, 4 June 1981

... to stage a writers’ congress in Havana and to invite a few foreign writers of note, such as Nathalie Sarraute, who were sympathisers of the Revolution but not necessarily Communists. In the meantime, in some kind of political montage (hooves of Klansmen’s horses galloping, then cut to damsel in distress, then cut to threatening blackamoor), Lunes ...

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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... an adviser to Lindon, Robbe-Grillet began shepherding to publication the novels of Michel Butor, Nathalie Sarraute, Claude Simon, Robert Pinget and Marguerite Duras, who were soon known as the ‘école de Minuit’. These writers drew on different models, but with their detached sensibility and rejection of 19th-century dramatic conventions, they had ...

The earth had need of me

Joanna Biggs: A nice girl like Simone, 16 April 2020

Becoming Beauvoir: A Life 
by Kate Kirkpatrick.
Bloomsbury, 476 pp., £20, August 2019, 978 1 350 04717 4
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Parisian Lives: Samuel Beckett, Simone de Beauvoir and Me, a Memoir 
by Deirdre Bair.
Atlantic, 347 pp., £18.99, February 2020, 978 1 78649 265 4
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Diary of a Philosophy Student, Vol. II: 1928-29 
by Simone de Beauvoir, translated by Barbara Klaw.
Illinois, 374 pp., £40, June 2019, 978 0 252 04254 6
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... stories was turned down twice. She began relationships with some of her other pupils, among them Nathalie Sorokine (who called her ‘a clock in a refrigerator’ for the way she divided her time between her lovers and her work, brooking no deviation), and Bianca Bienefeld, whom Sartre seduced (once Beauvoir had told him how to go about it). He also began a ...

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