Michel Butor Essay - Butor, Michel (Vol. 1)

Butor, Michel (Vol. 1)

Butor, Michel 1926–

A French novelist, Butor is an exponent of the anti-novel, or "new novel." (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 9-10.)

The name of Michel Butor has long been linked with that of Robbe-Grillet. These two young novelists have nothing in common, however, and Michel Butor was the first to make this clear when he made a violent attack on the theories of the author of Le Voyeur. He too wishes to renovate the form, he too places great importance on the 'objective world' and has little use for 'psychology', but he does believe in his characters and in their relations with the world. For him, it is rather the world that has changed, notably in its two principal categories, space and time.

Unlike the other practitioners of the new novel, Butor does not believe that time can be got rid of quite so easily, either by mixing its tenses or by replacing it, as does Robbe-Grillet in La Jalousie, by an immobilized time. If time is a reality of the world as well as our own reality, this reality is not self-evident, it is not a fixed standard, as in the traditional novel. It has constantly to be recaptured, reconstructed, it is not to engulf the events we have experienced and our own personalities. Moreover, time is not just a simple container: it is woven into the very fibres of our being, which is manifested through its modes, in a dialectical relationship of which the antithesis is the manifestation of time through us. It is this 'Being-Time' complex that Michel Butor is striving to express, partly in the form of the Faulknerian 'chronicle', but also by a quite different technique: meticulous analysis in the description of details, rather than total and synthetic description.

Maurice Nadeau, in his The French Novel Since the War, translated by A. M. Sheridan-Smith (reprinted by permission of Grove Press, Inc.; © 1967 by Methuen and Co., Ltd.), Methuen, 1967, pp. 134-35 (in the Grove-Evergreen paperbound edition, 1969).