Madame Sarraute's 4 essays, though translated here for the first time, have since the late 50's, in one form of commentary or another, been part and parcel of our ittle mag's intelligentsia. In short, gratifying as it may be to have them at last in oto, they are no longer the scoop or shocker they once were. As representative of France's anti-novel, Madame Sarraute counters the tradition of analytic psychology (as in roust and Woolf, to whom she owes, ironically enough, a definite debt) and the tradition of the omniscient author (as in Balzac). She attempts authenticity (the reader and author being wary of each other and the-hero-wary-of-both); she peers beneath the commonplace of language (suggesting what she calls sub-conversation) and of situation (the Kafkaesque blind man's buff world); she defines the ego's instability, reality's serio-comic fade-out, man as homo absurdus; fiction- wise her style is anti-metaphorical, anti-symbolic- the imagery grows out of the sensibility; in Robbe-Grillet it's a sort of Euclidean description; in Sarraute herself, a spineless mind-stream; our era then is one of suspicion which has immersed us in a substance anonymous as blood, a magma without name or contour, thus the ambiguity of place, plot, person, the relativity of past, present, future, the influence of abstract art, New Wave cinema. And thus the book itself: dazzling, difficult, demanding, a work of already acknowledged critical importance and impact.