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.
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