19 February 2008

alain robbe-grillet : 1922-2008

This sad news from Bloomberg.com, courtesy of Marc Lowe:

Feb. 18 (Bloomberg) -- Alain Robbe-Grillet, the French author and theoretician of the 1950s ``new novel'' genre, died today, the Academie Francaise reported. He was 85.

Seeking to overturn conventional fiction, Robbe-Grillet attempted to write novels that avoided psychological or ideological commentary, as he explained in his 1963 book, ``Pour un Nouveau Roman'' (``Toward a New Novel'').

In place of plot and character, Robbe-Grillet focused on meticulous descriptions of things and events as seen by an objective eye. With their timetables of people coming and going, Robbe-Grillet's novels can resemble noir detective stories.

His 1953 novel, ``Les Gommes'' (``The Erasers''), addresses a murder committed by the man who's investigating the crime. ``Le Voyeur'' of 1955 describes a stranger who kills a young girl.

Two years later, Robbe-Grillet published ``La Jalousie'' (``Jealousy''), in which a jealous husband spies on his wife and her suspected lover through the shutters of a blind, or ``jalousie.'' Time and again, his work explores the relationship between objectivity and subjectivity.

Born in Brest, Brittany, on Aug. 18, 1922, Robbe-Grillet trained as a statistician and agronomist before turning his hand to fiction. He wrote more than 10 novels, including last year's ``Un Roman Sentimental'' (``A Sentimental Novel''), a book about pedophilia that he called a ``fairy tale for adults.''

Robbe-Grillet also directed motion pictures, including ``L'Immortelle'' (``The Immortal,'' 1963) and ``L'Homme Qui Ment'' (``The Man Who Lies,'' 1968). His best-known work in film was his screenplay for Alain Resnais' ``L'Annee Derniere a Marienbad'' (``Last Year at Marienbad,'' 1961).

He was elected to the Academie Francaise in 2004.


Dimitri said...

His book, Repetition, published in the last decade, showed that Alain could still write in his inimitable way into his late years.

At a conference on his work in the US, he jumped up from his seat while a panel was going on, and he yelled, "Bravo!"

All the panelists were speaking in English. Alain did not understand English.

mark wallace said...

I had the pleasure of meeting him only once, in Buffalo in the early nineties. He came to the university to give a reading and to give a talk about a new film, La Belle Captive--was he the writer and director of that? I don't remember.

Along with Robert Creeley in poetry, Robbe-Grillet was a foundational writer for me, in the sense that I read his work at an early enough age to have my sense of what was possible in fiction changed for good. Maybe Pynchon is the only other writer to have had that level of effect on me.

Lance Olsen said...

For me, as a young grad student in the early eighties, coming across Robbe-Grillet's JEALOUSY and THE ERASERS was coming across what I now think of as Limit Texts--texts, like Beckett's THE UNNAMABLE or, more recently, David Markson's THE LAST NOVEL, that take the novel to a brink, challenge writers either to pretend those texts don't exist, or to try to write through them and be transformed by what appears on the other side.

Back as that graduate student, I published an essay in a literary journal on Faulkner's influence on Robbe-Grillet's work, and sent it along to the latter. We had a brief correspondence. I wrote in English; he responded in French. The thing that interested him most, apparently, was my name. There was no equivalent to it in French. He said he loved how it comes across in his language as neither feminine nor masculine, yet both at the same time. He wrote a whole letter about it.

He never commented on my essay except to thank me for sending it.

Rob Stephenson said...

Here's a link to an interview from 2003--


I believe we have one final novel to look forward to that has yet to appear in English.

And this lesser known erotic novel co-written with his wife is an unusual treat: