Books by Alain Robbe-Grillet

REPETITION by Alain Robbe-Grillet
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Feb. 20, 2003

"The self-seriousness of Robbe-Grillet's early experimental fiction has devolved into a grave playfulness. Mostly, though, the narrator is right on the money from the opening line: 'Here, then, I repeat, and I sum up.'"
Though it's been 20 years since his last novel, the clock has stopped in more ways than one on Robbe-Grillet's latest and (as its title aptly suggests) least novel nouveau roman. Read full book review >
LA BELLE CAPTIVE by Alain Robbe-Grillet
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: March 1, 1995

Originally published in France in 1975, La Belle Captive (``The Beautiful Captive'') is a slim novel arranged around and inspired by 77 Magritte paintings. Only a third of the book is given to the writing of renowned French metafictionist (Ghosts in the Mirror, 1990, etc.) and filmmaker (Last Year at Marienbad) Robbe-Grillet. Another third is comprised of the fine black-and-white reproductions of Magritte's surreal paintings, which vaguely mirror the text. The rest is taken up by translator Stoltzfus (French, Comparative Literature, and Creative Writing/Univ. of California, Riverside) in a pedantic prologue filled with lit-critty language (``the Aufhebung of an Aufhebung....a mise en abime''); a similarly dry ``interarts essay''; and a separate plot synopsis. The actual novel starts with a murder, witnessed by the narrator, who is probably the murderer. The narrator/murderer is a doctor, but the doctor act is just a ruse used to entrap young women whom he can then drug and dismember (literally and/or metaphorically). The narrator/murder is sometimes in a hotel, sometimes in a cafÇ, sometimes at a play/opera describing the Magritte paintings/plays, and sometimes in a cell being interrogated by a bunch of strangers in dark suits and bowlers who are asking him about the hotel, the cafÇ, and the holes in the narrative. In not telling this non-story, the narrator/murderer experiments with narrative and anti-narrative (``But what am I saying? And to whom?'') in a haven't-we-seen-this- before way. However, Robbe-Grillet is occasionally successful in creating an unsettling meta-universe by linking (even vaguely) the oblique, singular narrative worlds of Magritte. Overall La Belle Captive is neither thought-provoking nor entertaining, a creation that feels like a lark, and a dated and halfhearted one at that. Read full book review >

Brilliant, intriguing, sometimes tedious autobiographical antimemoir by the novelist (Recollections of the Golden Triangle, 1986; The Voyeur; Jealousy, etc.) and screenwriter (Last Year at Marienbad). Accustomed to low-level sales, Robbe-Grillet was surprised in 1955 when The Voyeur "benefited from a small scandal the moment it appeared, with staunch supporters and passionate detractors hurling insults—just what it takes in Paris to make a name in the republic of letters." The Voyeur, however, was hardly different from any work by Robbe-Grillet. All are set on destroying received ideas about what a writer should write, even in a memoir such as this, which, with its dynamiting of its own text, will satisfy fans but gain the author few new readers. We are barely into the first page before Robbe-Grillet tells us that language is incapable of doing what he is trying to make it do here, or what the reader might suppose he is trying to do: put clown some events in his life story. Words can't form any concrete truths, so this memoir will be largely fiction, a mirror-job. When he tries to tell us of his father, he also dismisses everything he tells: it's all too partial and factually capricious in selection of detail. And so it goes throughout, although Robbe-Grillet occasionally forgets himself and chugs along just like any other memoirist, telling us about his home village, the war years, his being shipped to Germany to work a lathe in a factory, his child-bride Catherine, and events in his writing career. Appearing most often is a friend of his father's, Henri de Corinthe, who may or may not exist—we never know for certain. Attractive for writers wondering what words are worth. Read full book review >