PORTRAIT OF A MAN UNKNOWN by Nathalie Sarraute


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In a preface Jean-Paul Sartre states that this is ""an anti-novel that reads like a detective story"", ""a parody on the novel of 'quest'"". This extremely difficult book about the nature of reality and illusion presents a ""seeker"" who becomes fascinated by an old man, a miser, and his aging unmarried daughter. He pursues them, spies on them, overhears their conversation, imagines their thoughts, creates his own images of them, all the while never sure of what he is looking for or why they intrigue him, never convinced of their existence, even of his own. This becomes then a search for identity for the subjective, through others -- the objective, in which, as a final nullity, the ""seeker"" gives up the pursuit. In a language variously luxurious and austere, of limpid grace --almost a poetry of the psychically grotesque, Mme. Sarraute explores a world, existing by virtue of its perceived mannerisms, in which, finally, objective and subjective have no meaning, in which personal distinction is lost. A desolate enterprise.

Pub Date: Aug. 4th, 1958
Publisher: George Braziller