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For a New Novel: Essays on Fiction

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Alain Robbe-Grillet, one of the leaders of the new French literary movement of the sixties, has long been regarded as the outstanding writer of the nouveau roman, as well as its major spokesman. For a New Novel reevaluates the techniques, ethos, and limits of contemporary fiction. This is a work of immense importance for any discussions of the history of the novel, and for Alain Robbe-Grillet, one of the leaders of the new French literary movement of the sixties, has long been regarded as the outstanding writer of the nouveau roman, as well as its major spokesman. For a New Novel reevaluates the techniques, ethos, and limits of contemporary fiction. This is a work of immense importance for any discussions of the history of the novel, and for contemporary thinking about the future of fiction.


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Alain Robbe-Grillet, one of the leaders of the new French literary movement of the sixties, has long been regarded as the outstanding writer of the nouveau roman, as well as its major spokesman. For a New Novel reevaluates the techniques, ethos, and limits of contemporary fiction. This is a work of immense importance for any discussions of the history of the novel, and for Alain Robbe-Grillet, one of the leaders of the new French literary movement of the sixties, has long been regarded as the outstanding writer of the nouveau roman, as well as its major spokesman. For a New Novel reevaluates the techniques, ethos, and limits of contemporary fiction. This is a work of immense importance for any discussions of the history of the novel, and for contemporary thinking about the future of fiction.

30 review for For a New Novel: Essays on Fiction

  1. 4 out of 5

    Glenn Russell

    French novelist, essayist, filmmaker Alain Robbe-Grillet (1922-2008) was a leading voice of the Nouveau Roman (New Novel) school back in the 1950s and 1960s, a man whose creative juices flowed in original and innovative ways, revolting against the old and fixed and thriving on the new and fresh, a man whose literary output reminds me of the avant-garde, experimental music of John Cage or the outlandish turn-the-art world-on-its head creations of Marcel Duchamp. Reflecting philosophically on the French novelist, essayist, filmmaker Alain Robbe-Grillet (1922-2008) was a leading voice of the Nouveau Roman (New Novel) school back in the 1950s and 1960s, a man whose creative juices flowed in original and innovative ways, revolting against the old and fixed and thriving on the new and fresh, a man whose literary output reminds me of the avant-garde, experimental music of John Cage or the outlandish turn-the-art world-on-its head creations of Marcel Duchamp. Reflecting philosophically on the novel and its possibilities, Robbe-Grillet wrote these 12 insightful, provocative essays with such titles as: `A Future for the Novel', `On Several Obsolete Notions', `A Novel That Invents Itself' and `New Novel, New Man'. From the titles of the essays, it’s abundantly clear the author was supremely serious about lighting a stick of dynamite in order to blow up well-worn novelistic forms in order to expand narrative boundaries and create new literary landscapes. KABOOM! To provide a modest taste of what a reader will find in these explosive essays, below are several quotes along with my brief comments. ‘New Novel’ is a convenient label applicable to all those seeking new forms for the novel, forms capable of expressing (or of creating) new relations between man and the world, to all those who have determined to invent the novel, in other words, to invent man.” ---------- Literary anarchy, anyone? When did you last read a novel that invented or, at the very least, creatively expanded what it means to be human? "The art of the novel, however, has fallen into such a state of stagnation - a lassitude acknowledged and discussed by the whole of critical opinion - that it is hard to imagine such an art can survive for long without some radical change." ---------- Fortunately, the novel is alive and well today, sixty years after Robbe-Grillet penned this statement. And fortunately, the novel's many forms and shapes, ranging from ultra-traditional to hyper-radical, accommodate the tastes of millions of readers worldwide. “Art is not a more or less brilliantly colored envelope intended to embellish the author’s “message,” a gilt paper around a package of cookies, a whitewash on a wall, a sauce that makes the fish go down easier.” ---------- By the author’s reckoning, if we as readers are looking for the author’s underlying message, we are betraying the novel as an art form; if a novelist writes a novel for the purpose of imparting a message (“In Dubious Battle” by John Steinbeck comes to mind), that novelist is likewise betraying the art of the novel. "Each novelist, each novel must invent its own form. No recipe can replace this continual reflection. The book makes its own rules for itself, and for itself alone." --------- To underscore the truth of this statement, all one need do is read Robbe-Grillet's `The Erasers' or Raymond Queneau's `Exercises in Style', two novels a universe removed from any preset rules. "A novel, for most readers - and critics - is primarily a "story." . . . To tell a story well is therefore to make what one writes resemble the prefabricated schemas people are used to, in other words, their ready-made idea of reality." ---------- Now, this is radical. Who doesn't like a good story? Well, according to Robbe-Grillet, the story can merely reinforce our small-minded view of the world. In a way, this can be the acid test for what it means for a novel to be great literature: does the novel we are reading challenge us to expand our vision, enabling us to see the world and language with fresh eyes? "How much we've heard about the `character"! . . . It is a mummy now, but one still enthroned with the same - phony - majesty, among the values revered by traditional criticism. In fact, that is how this criticism recognizes the "true" novelist: "he creates characters" . . . " ---------- Again, truly radical. Who doesn't like a novel with strong, memorable characters? And, again, Robbe-Grillet challenges us to examine why character is so important. Do we want the men and women in the novels we read to underpin our precanned view of the possibilities of what it means to be human? "Why seek to reconstruct the time of clocks in a narrative which is concerned only with human time? Is it not wiser to think of our own memory, which is never chronological? Why persist in discovering what an individual's name is in a novel which does not supply it? Every day we meet people whose names we do not know . . . " ---------- Ha! Vintage Robbe-Grillet. This is why I see the author's novels as the literary counterpart of the music of John Cage. Do we need conventional time and an individual's name to have a novel? Do we need a musician to play melody and rhythm to hear music?

  2. 4 out of 5

    Gabriel

    This collection of essays is not an explanation of the nouveau roman in general any more than it is of Robbe-Grillet's novels in particular. It is instead a brilliant analysis of the man's own view of the world, and the way that that view is manifested in his work. As for instance, the essay "Nature, Humanism, Tragedy," which begins with Robbe-Grillet's denunciation of what he calls "the myth of depth." Though he is explaining it in relation to his writing, the real subject has everything to do This collection of essays is not an explanation of the nouveau roman in general any more than it is of Robbe-Grillet's novels in particular. It is instead a brilliant analysis of the man's own view of the world, and the way that that view is manifested in his work. As for instance, the essay "Nature, Humanism, Tragedy," which begins with Robbe-Grillet's denunciation of what he calls "the myth of depth." Though he is explaining it in relation to his writing, the real subject has everything to do with the way that Robbe-Grillet views the world and the consequences it has for his writing, rather than the other way around. The center of this book, not coincidentally located at the center of this book (look at the table of contents), is the essay "Joe the Dreamer," about the writings of Joe Bousquet. Anyone seeking the key to Robbe-Grillet's work would do well to go straight to this essay, as everything else follows directly from it. Robbe-Grillet's constant bickering with "critics" and "other writers" can make this book seem insubstantial at times, but the bickering is both entirely justified (particularly when lamenting the calcification that is still going on in many circles in the novel's form (it is a "novel" for a reason: it is new, it is novel, different)), and also a major goad to Robbe-Grillet in writing these essays. This book is a singular education in the way that each writer, each artist, makes use of his/her philosophy in creating art. It is what makes writing art and not simply craft.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mateo R.

    Robbe-Grillet dice que los que se empeñan en leer a Kafka principalmente como una alegoría están equivocados, porque lo más interesante está en la realidad que construye y nos presenta Kafka, no en nuestra realidad a la que (según algunos) apunta. Me arrepiento de haber leído los poemas de Lorca con afán desmenuzador, queriendo entenderlo, cuando tendría que haber tratado de sentirlo. --- En "Un camino para la novela futura", Robbe-Grillet señala que concepción novelesca mayoritaria durante el mom Robbe-Grillet dice que los que se empeñan en leer a Kafka principalmente como una alegoría están equivocados, porque lo más interesante está en la realidad que construye y nos presenta Kafka, no en nuestra realidad a la que (según algunos) apunta. Me arrepiento de haber leído los poemas de Lorca con afán desmenuzador, queriendo entenderlo, cuando tendría que haber tratado de sentirlo. --- En "Un camino para la novela futura", Robbe-Grillet señala que concepción novelesca mayoritaria durante el momento en que escribe (los 60) es la llamada novela burguesa, que se mantiene casi inalterada desde Balzac y desde Madame de La Fayette: cierto análisis psicológico preside la concepción del libro, resultando en una pintura de personajes y en un desarrollo de la intriga que gira en torno al tema de la pasión (conflicto de pasiones, ausencia de pasión). Este tipo de novela es la que goza de la aprobación de los consumidores. Robbe-Grillet cree que no solo una literatura nueva es posible sino que ya está saliendo a la luz, quizás incluso una revolución similar a la del Romanticismo o el Naturalismo. Tal trastorno del género implicaría grandes dificultades ("juzgada inconscientemente por referencia a formas consagradas, una forma nueva parecerá siempre más o menos una ausencia de forma"). Robbe-Grillet ve en esa literatura tradicional una apropiación sistemática de la realidad que ofrece una concepción cómoda y tranquilizadora de lo que es literario: todo correctamente encasillado en su categoría y lo que no entendemos, bueno, en la categoría del absurdo. Pero para él el mundo no es significante ni absurdo, simplemente es. La fuerza de tal evidencia es capaz de sacudir al lector y tirar abajo toda aquella construcción. Esto ocurre frecuentemente en el cine, a pesar de ser también "heredero de la tradición psicológica y naturalista", porque al verlo nos enfrentamos a la evidencia de las cosas que son, mientras que en la novela tradicional los objetos y ademanes suelen desaparecer para dejar paso solo a su significado ("la silla vacía no era más que una ausencia [...], los barrotes de la ventana solo la imposibilidad de salir"). En el cine la silla es una silla, los barrotes son barrotes, y por añadidura pueden tener significados, pero lo que persiste en nuestra memoria son los objetos mismos. Se restituye la realidad, se revela el carácter insólito del mundo que nos rodea, que se niega a doblegarse a nuestro hábitos de aprehensión y ordenamiento. Robbe-Grillet cree que en la nueva novela funcionará así también, en ella los objetos y los gestos se impondrán por su presencia, estarán ahí antes de significar algo. No serán meras herramientas provisionales que sirvan para expresar una "superior verdad humana" para luego ser desechadas, sino que se sustraerán a la tiranía de los significados, del "falso misterio" o "romántico corazón de las cosas", y se mostrarán por sí mismos. Algo similar ocurrirá con los personajes, que abundarán en múltiples interpretaciones posibles pero todos los comentarios que podrían implicar (psicológicos, políticos, etc.) serán superfluos ante el mismo personaje, que "permanecerá ahí". Algo de esto cree ver Robbe-Grillet en el drama policíaco, especialmente en función del tratamiento que se hace de los objetos y los indicios (las pistas) y de las múltiples posibilidades que se barajan. También atisba una transformación a nivel del lenguaje: mientras que antes el papel del escritor consistía en ahondar en la Naturaleza o en la "condición humana", en la profundidad esencial de las cosas, para así llevarle las respuestas del misterio al lector; ahora dudamos de que la superficie de las cosas no sea más una máscara de su corazón, no creemos ya en tal profundidad ni consideramos al mundo como algo domesticable y de nuestra propiedad privada. No pretendemos entender la profunidad de las cosas, por lo que nos centramos en su superficie. Esto lleva a los escritores a pasar de usar adjetivos globales y palabras de carácter visceral, analógico o mágico, a recurrir al adjetivo óptico, descriptivo, al que se limita a medir, situar y delimitar. --- En "A propósito de unas nociones caducas" Robbe-Grillet señala que la crítica literaria tradicional, a pesar de pretender estimar a las obras de acuerdo a principios "naturales" (el sentido común, el corazón, etc.) sí tiene detrás de sus análisis un sistema que representa una idea preconcebida de la novela: la burguesa. El uso de la frase "vanguardia" para toda obra que renuncia a fórmulas gastadas a primera vista parece un elogio pero en realidad funciona como un insulto. Revisa pues las nociones "naturales" de la crítica tradicional: * El personaje, en su concepción heredada del s. XIX: "Balzac nos dejó a Papá Goriot, Dostoyevski dio a la luz a los Karamazov, por consiguiente escribir novelas no puede ser más que eso: añadir unas cuantas figuras modernas a la galería de retratos". Robbe-Grillet critica este uso de un personaje que debe tener nombre y apellido, parientes, profesión (y mejor si tiene herencia y bienes), un "carácter" y un rostro que lo refleje, un "pasado" que lo haya modelado, y que aspira a legar un día su nombre a un tipo humano. Para él el "estudio de caracteres" o "novela de personajes" pertenece al pasado (señala los narradores sin nombre y en primera persona de Camus, los cambios de nombre y de forma de los protagonistas de Beckett, el despojamiento casi total de los de Kafka). La novela de personajes obedece a una época (la que marca el apogeo del individuo, en la el destino del mundo giraba en torno a la ascensión y caída de unas cuantas personas y familias) y la época actual es más bien la del número de matrícula, la de un mundo menos seguro de sí mismo y menos antropocéntrico. * La historia, supuestamente la razón de ser de la novela (un auténtico novelista, dice la crítica, es el que sabe "contar una historia", inventar peripecias palpitantes, conmovedoras, dramáticas). Según esto, hacer la crítica de una novela se reduce con frecuencia a explicar su anécdota, los nudos y desenlaces de la intriga. El juicio del libro depende de la apreciación de la coherencia de la historia, de su desarrollo, su equilibrio y las sorpresas que depara al lector. Una laguna en el relato es el principal defecto, la vivacidad y la redondez las más altas cualidades. El estilo no es lo más importante, es solo un medio, el fondo es la historia. Esta historia debe parecer verosímil, espontánea, y un fragmento menor de un mundo aparentemente inagotable del que el narrador elige contarnos solo una parte. Es decir, debe parecer natural. (Esta concepción deriva, para Robbe-Grillet, del sistema racionalistas y organizador burgués y de una confianza en una lógica de las cosas justa y universal). Pero la fuerza del novelista estriba en inventar con toda libertad y sin modelo. La necesidad de imponer la imagen de un universo estable, coherente, continuo, unívoco y perfectamente descifrable comienza a tambalearse desde Flaubert, y sucesivamente las exigencias de la anécdota son menos imperiosas en Proust, Faulkner, Beckett, etc. Pero es un error pretender que en las novelas modernas ya no pasa nada. No es la anécdota lo que falta en ellas, sino solo su carácter de certeza, su tranquilidad, su inocencia. En cualquier caso, predice Robbe-Grillet, dentro de unos años el estilo de estos escritores, ya asimilado, convertido en académico, será la regla y se irá volviendo rancio: jóvenes novelistas querrán escribir de otro modo, y probablemente se los acusará, al igual que se hizo con los escritores de mediados del siglo XX, de no saber inventar historias. * El "engagement". La novela de tesis es para Robbe-Grillet un género vergonzoso. Estas novelas didácticas que pretenden explicar algo (ya sea "la desdicha del hombre sin Dios, el corazón femenino, [...] la psicología") no sirven, pues el lector prefiere lógicamente los ensayos. Crítico con la burguesía, también lo es con el llamado realismo socialista, es decir, con la pretensión de crear conciencias de clase y enseñar la moral socialista a través de novelas. La conjunción de renovación artística y revolución político-económica es seductora y parece lógica pero presenta graves problemas. La Revolución demanda que todo persiga un objetivo final, la liberación del proletariado, pero "el arte no puede verse reducido al estado de medio de una causa que rebasa su campo", para el artista las directrices impuestas desde el exterior funcionan como una traba insoportable y paralizante. Y la concepción utópica de la obra de arte como si fuese capaz de pesar en la acción cotidiana lo mismo que una huelga o una revuelta es perjudicial tanto para el Arte como para la Revolución. Se debe dejar de temer al "arte por el arte" y dejar de acusarla cuando habla de algo que no sea la lucha de clases o el anticolonialismo. Además, el realismo socialista cae fácilmente en un maniqueísmo de buenos y malos. Por último, el hecho de que la construcción de personajes y del mundo de las novelas estén totalmente supeditados a verdades económicas y teorías marxistas, es decir, a explicaciones previas, probadas y reconocidas, la obra pierde su capacidad de descubrimiento o invención y, sobre todo, se vuelve a negar al mundo su cualidad más importante: el simple hecho de estar ahí. Sartre vio el peligro de esa literatura moralizadora y predicó en favor de una literatura moral, que pretendía tan solo despertar las conciencias políticas planteando los problemas de nuestra sociedad, pero que escapara a la mentalidad propagandística restituyendo al lector su libertad; pero para Robbe-Grillet esto también fue una utopía, pues en cuanto aparece la preocupación por significar algo ajeno al arte, la literatura empieza a desaparecer. Para Robbe-Grillet la noción de engagement solo puede tener un sentido: la plena conciencia de los problemas actuales del lenguaje del propio escritor, la convicción de su extrema importancia, la voluntad de resolverlos desde dentro. * La forma y el contenido. La crítica tradicional, tanto burguesa como socialista, ataca al formalismo (de lo que se desprende una vez su preocupación por la anécdota y por transmitir "una profunda verdad humana, una moral o una metafísica"). Por formalismo entienden una preocupación demasiado marcada por la forma y la técnica novelesca en detrimento del argumento y su significado. Ambos pretenden negar al arte su principal condición: la libertad. "Unos no quieren ver en la literatura sino un instrumento más al servicio de la revolución socialista, otros exigen de él ante todo que exprese ese vago humanismo que hizo las delicias de una sociedad ahora decadente". La realidad, para Robbe-Grillet, es que el estilo es lo que determina a una novela y lo que constituye el mundo particular de cada escritor. El verdadero escritor no tiene nada que decir, "tiene solo una manera de decir". Robbe-Grillet entiende por formalismo justamente lo contrario que los críticos tradicionales: el evitar un estilo susceptible de desagradar o sorprender, el refugiarse en moldes acreditados y formas prefabricadas, como hacen tanto los novelistas burgueses como los realistas socialistas. --- En "Del realismo a la realidad", Robbe-Grille señala que todos los escritores son realistas porque cada uno se esfuerza en mostrar a través de sus obras su realidad tal y como la percibe. "Los clásicos creían que es clásica, los románticos que romántica, los surrealistas que surreal, Claudel que es de naturaleza divina, Camus que absurda, los "engagés" que es ante todo económica y que tiende al socialismo". Las revoluciones literarias suelen hacerse en nombre del realismo porque cuando una forma de escritura pierde su vitalidad primera, cuando se convierte en una vulgar fórmula o un academicismo, el retorno a lo real consiste en denunciar las fórmulas gastadas y buscar otras nuevas. "¿Y eso de qué sirve, se me dirá, si es para ir a parar después, tras un tiempo más o menos largo, a un nuevo formalismo, pronto tan anquilosado como el antiguo? Esto equivaldría a decir que para qué vivir, si no hay más remedio que morir y dejar sitio a los otros vivos. El arte es vida. Nada está jamás ganado de una manera definitiva. No puede existir sin ese permanente replanteamiento. Pero el movimiento de esas evoluciones y revoluciones constituye su eterno renacimiento". Otra noción importante para Robbe-Grillet es que la novela no debe ser un instrumento que esté concebido en vistas a un trabajo previamente definido. No sirve para exponer cosas que existían antes de ella o fuera de ella. No expresa, busca. Se busca a sí misma. La novela no solo surge del hecho de que cada escritor percibe su propia realidad, sino que ella misma crea una realidad, lleva a cabo la invención de un mundo. La verosimilitud ya no es relevante en la nueva novela, el detallito que "parece de verdad" no retiene ya la atención del novelista, lo que le impresiona es más bien el detallito que parece falso. En la acepción que Robbe-Grillet utiliza de autor realista (es decir, creador de un mundo material dentro de la novela) se sitúa Kafka, pero también sufrió el que sus exégetas y admiradores buscaran constantemente atribuirle significados "profundos" a los mundos que creaba. Se busca reducir los relatos de Kafka a meras alegorías que no solo requieren una explicación que las resume y agota su contenido, sino que ese significado termina destruyendo el universo tangible construido por Kafka. Según esta lógica, la literatura consistiría siempre en hablar de otra cosa. Habría un mundo presente y un mundo real; únicamente el primero sería visible, y sólo el segundo importante. Robbe-Grillet se rebela contra esta concepción, para él las cosas que describe Kafka poseen realidad absoluta y el mundo visible de sus novelas es un mundo real, lo que hay detrás (si es que hay algo) parece carente de valor. El efecto kafkiano de alucinación proviene de la extraordinaria nitidez de sus objetos, gestos y palabras, y no de flotamientos o brumas. "Tal vez las escaleras de Kafka conduzca a otra parte, pero están ahí, y estamos viéndolas, peldaño por peldaño, siguiendo el detalle de los barrotes y de la rampa. Tal vez sus paredes grises oculten algo, pero la memoria se detiene en ellas, en su pintura descascarillada, en sus grietas". Por último hace una reivindicación del Nouveau Roman. Dice que se lo acusa de "moda pasajera". Nada mejor que eso, porque lo que propone el Nouveau Roman es que las formas novelescas son pasajeras. Cuando este movimiento empiece a anquilosarse, "ello será la señal para los inventores de que un Nuevo Nouveau Roman está pidiendo salir a la luz". Intertextualidad Menciones directas: * La Princesa de Clèves de Madame de La Fayette (Francia, 1678). * Papá Goriot de Honoré de Balzac (Francia, 1834). * Ulises de James Joyce (Irlanda, 1922). * El castillo de Franz Kafka (Imperio austrohúngaro/Checoslovaquia, 1926). * El ruido y la furia de William Faulkner (EEUU, 1929). * Los hermanos Karamazov de Fiódor Dostoyevski (Imperio ruso, 1880) (alusión). * La náusea de Jean Paul Sartre (Francia, 1938). * El extranjero de Albert Camus (Francia, 1942). * Viaje al fin de la noche de Louis-Ferdinand Céline (Francia, 1932). * La comedia humana de Honoré de Balzac (Francia, 1830). * Les Gommes de Alain Robbe-Grillet (Francia, 1953). * Le Voyeur de Alain Robbe-Grillet (Francia, 1955). * Madame Bovary de Gustave Flaubert (Francia, 1856). * La Jalousie de Alain Robbe-Grillet (Francia, 1957). * Dans le labyrinthe de Alain Robbe-Grillet (Francia, 1959). * Le Chiendent de Raymond Queneau (Francia, 1933). * Loin de Rueil de Raymond Queneau (Francia, 1944). * Mención a los escritores André Gide (Francia, s. XIX-XX), Henri Clouard (Francia, s. XX), Jean Racine (Francia, s. XVII) (alusión adjetival), Ilyá Ehrenburg (Unión Soviética, s. XX), Georg Lukács (Hungría, s. XX), Karl Marx (Reino de Prusia, s. XIX) (al. adj.), Nathalie Sarraute (Rusia/Francia, s. XX), René Descartes (Francia, s. XVII), Paul Claudel (Francia, s. XIX-XX) y Émile Zola (Francia, s. XIX).

  4. 5 out of 5

    Vogisland

    Robbe-Grillet has been cast as the representative of a school-of-1950s/60s-French-writing. In these essays, he does not argue for the new novel, but for a novel that constantly renews itself. He encourages writers to let each book create rules of its own. He casts Beckett in a new light (for me at least) in a few pages. His response to his critics is fantastically straightforward. I wish I had read this book in college--it would have dispelled a lot of ideas that took too long to shake off on my Robbe-Grillet has been cast as the representative of a school-of-1950s/60s-French-writing. In these essays, he does not argue for the new novel, but for a novel that constantly renews itself. He encourages writers to let each book create rules of its own. He casts Beckett in a new light (for me at least) in a few pages. His response to his critics is fantastically straightforward. I wish I had read this book in college--it would have dispelled a lot of ideas that took too long to shake off on my own.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Zalman

    The essays in this book are witty, penetrating, thought-provoking, and surprisingly (at least compared with the reputation of Robbe-Grillet's novels as opaque and unappealing formal exercises) accessible. Personally, I love most of Robbe-Grillet's stuff, although in his later books the persistent repetition of misogynistic imagery started to wear me out. There's none of that here. Instead we are treated to such provocative musings as: "We thus see the absurdity of that favorite expression of our The essays in this book are witty, penetrating, thought-provoking, and surprisingly (at least compared with the reputation of Robbe-Grillet's novels as opaque and unappealing formal exercises) accessible. Personally, I love most of Robbe-Grillet's stuff, although in his later books the persistent repetition of misogynistic imagery started to wear me out. There's none of that here. Instead we are treated to such provocative musings as: "We thus see the absurdity of that favorite expression of our traditional criticism: 'X has something to say and says it well.' Might we not advance on the contrary that the genuine writer has nothing to say? He has only a way of speaking. He must create a world, but starting from nothing, from the dust...." (On Several Obsolete Notions, 1957, p. 45) "The reader overly concerned to know the story could even consider himself justified in skipping the descriptions; they involved only a frame, which moreover happened to have meaning identical to that of the picture it was to contain. "Obviously, when the same reader skips the descriptions in our books, he is in danger of finding himself, having turned all the pages one after the other with a rapid forefinger, at the end of the volume whose contents will have escaped him altogether; imagining he has been dealing hitherto with nothing but the frame, he will still be looking for the picture. "This is because the place and role of description have changed completely." (Time and Description, 1963, p. 147) Whether one ultimately found such ideas, or some of the other provocations in the book, agreeable, for a writer or critic at least (or for the reader as a consumer of art rather than just free time) Robbe-Grillet articulated in these essays (and put into practice in his novels) a welcome challenge to look at fiction in a new, potentially productive, way.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Hamish

    Choice quotes: "A novel which is no more than the grammatical example illustrating a rule--even accompanied by its exception--would naturally be useless: the statement of the rule would suffice." "The same is true of the world around us. We had thought to control it by assigning it a meaning, and the entire art of the novel, in particular, seems dedicated to this enterprise. But this was merely an illusory simplification; and far from becoming clearer and clearer because of it, the world has only, Choice quotes: "A novel which is no more than the grammatical example illustrating a rule--even accompanied by its exception--would naturally be useless: the statement of the rule would suffice." "The same is true of the world around us. We had thought to control it by assigning it a meaning, and the entire art of the novel, in particular, seems dedicated to this enterprise. But this was merely an illusory simplification; and far from becoming clearer and clearer because of it, the world has only, little by little, lost all its life." "[T]he very notion of a work created for the expression of a social, political, economic, or moral content constitutes a lie." "Nothing is more fantastic, ultimately, than precision."

  7. 5 out of 5

    emmarps

    À mon avis cet ouvrage est celui qui donne les meilleures clés pour comprendre ce qu'à pu être le Nouveau Roman. Les différents essais rassemblés dans ce livre sont tous relativement brefs et donnent avec concision les pistes théoriques qui ont donné lieu à ce désir d'innovation du genre romanesque. Loin de la lourdeur des textes de J. Ricardou (Le nouveau roman), ici le style est accessible, parfois oral, en tout cas très appréciable.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Angus

    I want to rate this 5 I think but I can't in good faith because I'm stupid and a lot of the language is quite dense and complicated (it may not be in the original french but I struggle to read essays in French because my non-fluency leads me to miss subtle linguistic details and therefore creates the danger of not properly following the argument) and I'm sure some points flew over my head. However what I did understand provided a fascinating, and often revelatory insight into the nature of ficti I want to rate this 5 I think but I can't in good faith because I'm stupid and a lot of the language is quite dense and complicated (it may not be in the original french but I struggle to read essays in French because my non-fluency leads me to miss subtle linguistic details and therefore creates the danger of not properly following the argument) and I'm sure some points flew over my head. However what I did understand provided a fascinating, and often revelatory insight into the nature of fiction (encompassing literature, theatre, cinema) and what makes it (I'm wary of choosing the wrong word here) special(?)

  9. 5 out of 5

    Tara

    His novels are hard to read, but his essays about the novel are delightful. Even though they were written in the 1950s and 60s, they seem absolutely contemporary (or mabye I’m not). Here’s a sample: “Art is not a more or less brilliantly colored envelope intended to embellish the author’s ‘message,’ a gilt paper around a package of cookies, a whitewash on a wall, a sauce that makes the fish go down easier. Art endures no servitude of this kind…. It is based on no truth that exists before it; and His novels are hard to read, but his essays about the novel are delightful. Even though they were written in the 1950s and 60s, they seem absolutely contemporary (or mabye I’m not). Here’s a sample: “Art is not a more or less brilliantly colored envelope intended to embellish the author’s ‘message,’ a gilt paper around a package of cookies, a whitewash on a wall, a sauce that makes the fish go down easier. Art endures no servitude of this kind…. It is based on no truth that exists before it; and one may say that it expresses nothing but itself. It creates its own equilibrium and its own meaning. It stands all by itself, like the zebra; or else it falls.”

  10. 4 out of 5

    Geoff Wyss

    Contemporary fiction (American fiction especially) would be a lot more interesting if more of us had taken the risks Robbe-Grillet took. These essays question, and largely discard, the tired 19th-century 'givens' of fiction writing, including character, plot, (metaphysical) theme, and the unexamined assumption of 'reality' such conventions are based on. A must-read, I think, for writers.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    130811: not exactly a manifesto. not exactly a reading of french literature after WW2. not exactly… but always interesting...

  12. 4 out of 5

    Nick Rueth

    He makes a convincing argument for why his objectivist subjectivity exists, but not why we should use it. Though perhaps he's merely explaining himself. As he says, the form of the novel and the subjective explorations it requires are ever-evolving, and maybe we have moved beyond objective literature. I understand his desire for realist subjectivity, but there are other kinds of subject-object and subject-subject relations than the ones he talks about and he very much misses human relations, red He makes a convincing argument for why his objectivist subjectivity exists, but not why we should use it. Though perhaps he's merely explaining himself. As he says, the form of the novel and the subjective explorations it requires are ever-evolving, and maybe we have moved beyond objective literature. I understand his desire for realist subjectivity, but there are other kinds of subject-object and subject-subject relations than the ones he talks about and he very much misses human relations, reducing them to significations. Also, he seems to despise metaphysics, which is just an extension of his hating anything that is not represented directly through signifying. Though, the world is not so black and white, signifying and non-signifying. I will give Jealousy another chance after this, but I'm not sure this will affect my own writing's form. It has certainly made me more conscious of the subjectivities implicit in my own writing, though, and the ways in which we anthropomorphize objects, rather than seeing them as objectively as we subjectively can.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Steve Gutin

    excellent; inspirational

  14. 5 out of 5

    Steven

    "The stammering newborn work will always be regarded as a monster, even by those who find experiment fascinating."

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mauro

    Breezy reminder that the search for new modes of representation is as old as the novel. “To tell a story well is therefore to make what one writes resemble the prefabricated schemas people are used to, in other words, their ready-made idea of reality.” “There is a famous Russian cartoon in which a hippopotamus, in the bush, points out a zebra to another hippopotamus: 'You see,' he says, 'now that’s formalism.'"

  16. 5 out of 5

    ÖMRÜM UZUN

    ''Nouveau Roman'' hakkında ilk elden bilgilendiren güzel bir kitap. Toparlanmış yazılardan oluştuğu için bir bütünlük yok, ancak kitabı bitirince bu konuda bilgisi olmayan okur biraz aydınlanıyor ve merak ediyor. Ne mene bir şeymiş bu Yeni Roman diye arayışa girişiyor. Ne yazık ki belli başlı örneklerin Türkçe çevirilerinin baskıları tükenmiş durumda. Umarım en kısa sürede yeniden okurlara ulaşır.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Shasta8sisyphus

    Robbe-Grillet is spot on in these essays... A very clear and precise vision that to me seems just as applicable today as back when he wrote them, and not only to the new novel but to art as well. Although I'm sure he'd disagree with me and chalk my excitement up to a lack of thorough experience... Great though! Great! Quoties to come...

  18. 5 out of 5

    David

    Introduction to the theory behind the author's avant-garde novels of the 1950s and 60s: turgid, polemical, revealing, and a tad repetitious, since this material was assembled from his essays and reviews. Noteworthy because it's rare to find a master practitioner of prose fiction who can at least begin to elaborate the principles behind the writing.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Adrian P

    Being a show-off, I have to say that I read this in the French and loved it. This book is an easier read than certain of Robbe-Grillet's novels... If you study literature and literary theory, this is a must-read. But I'm biased: a long, long time ago, my critique of Robbe-Grillet was my only finals paper worthy of a First...

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

    The work of a very clever, very bored academic. I'm left with the feeling that the movement in question, though, amounts to a postmodern effort to revive aestheticism, to hammer a purer form out of it; in effect, a self-sustaining classicism. Some individual positions are still subversive, and quite compelling, if not totally convincing.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Johnnie

    This is a fascinating and enlightening way of examining and thinking about literature. Worth reading first before you dive into Jealousy or other New Novels. Even worth reading to give you a fresh way of approaching modernist and post-modernist literature. This is a book I will come back to often.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Leonard Pierce

    Though I've been constantly thwarted in my attempts to get into him as a novelist, as a critic, I think Robbe-Grillet is fantastic. The essays in this book are really sharp, insightful, and well-reasoned.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    PROBABLY ESSENTIAL. DRAGGED.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Vincent

    "For a Nex Novel" or something...

  25. 4 out of 5

    Erin Lyons

    Important for all literary fiction writers.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lise

    Essays on fiction

  27. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    Read this in conjunction with Susan Sontag's first two essay collections.

  28. 5 out of 5

    A. D. Jameson

    I put off reading this for many years, and I have no idea why. It's indispensable.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Distress Strauss

    Nice try. Oh well.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Tosh

    Alain Robbe-Grillet you will be missed!

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