Alain Robbe-Grillet Biography


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Alain Robbe-Grillet was born on August 18, 1922, in Brest, Finistère, France. He received his early education at the lycée Buffon in Paris, the lycée in Brest, and the lycée Saint Louis in Paris. Growing up in a family of scientists and engineers, he chose to study mathematics and biology. In 1944 he graduated from the Institut National d’Agronomique with a degree in agricultural engineering. During World War II, he was sent to Germany to work in a tank factory. He was an engineer at the Institut National de la Statistique in Paris from 1945 to 1948. Then from 1949 to 1951 he was an agronomist with the Institut des Fruits et Agrumes Coloniaux in Morocco, in French Guyana, in Martinique, and in Guadeloupe, where he was involved in the supervision of banana plantations.

In 1951, Robbe-Grillet suffered from ill health. While recuperating, he wrote Les Gommes (1953; The Erasers, 1964). With the publication of this novel, he began a new career as a writer. Although The Erasers was his first published novel, it was not the first novel that he had written. In 1949, while working in his sister’s biology laboratory, he had written Un Régicide (1978; a regicide). This novel was not published until 1978. The Erasers brought him considerable attention from the literary community and recognition as one of the major new authors whose works were referred to as the New Novel. In 1954, The Erasers received the Prix Fénélon. The following year, Robbe-Grillet published The Voyeur, for which he received the Prix des Critiques, and became a literary consultant for the French publishing house Les Editions de Minuit. He remained in this capacity through 1985. On October 23, 1957, he married Catherine Rstakian, a film and theater actress.

In spite of Robbe-Grillet’s...

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(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Alain Robbe-Grillet was born near Brest, France, in 1922, where he attended the local school and then the Lycée Buffon in Paris. He received a first bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Lycée Saint-Louis in Paris and a second one from the Lycée de Brest. From 1941 to 1942, during the German occupation in World War II, he attended the French National Institute of Agronomy in Paris. Robbe-Grillet started writing in 1949 and worked for the French colonial administration in the French West Indies; the period of his greatest literary production started in 1953 with Les Gommes. He became a literary consultant for the publisher Éditions de Minuit in 1955.

In 1959, he began working in cinema as well as continuing to write fiction; his collaboration in 1960-1961 on Last Year at Marienbad was successful. He published Snapshots, a collection of short fiction, in 1962. He began to appear on French television and to tour American universities in the 1960’s. Collaborations with French and American artists produced Topologie d’une cité fantôme (1976; Topology of a Phantom City, 1977) and Construction d’un temple en ruines à la Déesse Vanadé (1975). He was also inducted into the French Legion of Honor. He published Les Derniers jours de Corinthe in 1994. Robbe-Grillet died in Caen, France on February 18, 2008.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Alain Robbe-Grillet was born August 18, 1922, in Brest, France. He studied at the Institut National Agronomique in 1941-1942. During the World War II German occupation of France, his institute class was taken to a factory in Nuremberg and forced to work on lathes and milling machines. In 1943, ill with infectious rheumatism, he was sent for recovery to a French hospital. Later, he returned to the institute, graduating in 1946. He also served as charge de mission with the Institut National des Statistiques, 1945-1948.

From 1949 to 1951, Robbe-Grillet was an agronomist with the Institut des Fruits el Agrumes Coloniaux, traveling extensively in Morocco, Guinea, Guadeloupe, and Martinique. His novel Un Régicide, unpublished until 1978, was completed in 1949. Robbe-Grillet’s second novel, The Erasers, was published in 1953 by Editions de Minuit in Paris. In 1955, he became a literary adviser to Minuit. In 1960, he accepted membership in the Television Programming Committee. During this decade he also married Catherine Rstakian (1957).

Robbe-Grillet and his literary work have received many honors. The Voyeur won the Prix des Critiques in 1955; the film Last Year at Marienbad won both the Prix du Lion d’or and the French Melies Prize. In 1964, he made his first trip to the United States for a lecture tour at several universities. Additionally, he was a term lecturer at New York University in 1972, 1975, and 1979; at University of California in 1978; at Columbia in 1989, and also at Washington University in St. Louis. In 1975, a ten-day colloquium on Robbe-Grillet was presented at Cerisy-la-Salle. He was guest of honor, in 1986, at the Writers’ Week-Long Festival in New Zealand.

Robbe-Grillet was a center of critical controversy from the late 1950’s onward. Few movements have sparked such acrimonious debates as his literary innovations. Notably controversial have been his depictions of racism, chauvinism, and women as victims, and his apparent fascination with sadomasochism. In 1974, when the film The Successive Slidings of Pleasure, for which he wrote the screenplay, was shown in Italy, the theater was shut down; Robbe-Grillet was accused of being a pornographer. Conversely, in 1975, the French government accepted him into the French Legion of Honor. He died on February 18, 2008, in Caen, France.