Critical Context

Pinget is one of several French writers of the 1950’s and 1960’s known as the New Novelists. The other most notable practitioners are Alain Robbe-Grillet, Michel Butor, and Nathalie Sarraute. The New Novelists are generally phenomenologists—that is, they reject an objective view of reality and find what is “real” to be only the subjective vision of things imposed on life by the mind. Thus, the world outside human perception has no fixed referents but is instead always succumbing to interpretation. This metaphysic has its accompanying radical aesthetic: The reasoning is that because the usual structure of Aristotelian beginning, middle, and end suggests an outward order that is illusory, then the proper aesthetic approach for a novelist is one that transcribes events in their true disorderliness and refuses to stamp any given interpretation of these events as “true.”

The New Novel is, then, in its own view of things, relentlessly realistic, and it is probably for precisely this reason that it cannot be a popular art. Whatever the truth, if any, about subjects and objects, the average reader seeks a story that gives shape to the lives of people and things. Indeed, the mind cannot help its compulsions: Give it two facts and it will make a story out of them. It does not necessarily follow, however, that the best art is one that turns this story-making impulse entirely over to the reader.

The New Novelists would reject Stendhal’s...

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