Robbe-Grillet, Alain (Vol. 8)

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Last Updated on May 19, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 3640

Robbe-Grillet, Alain 1922–

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French novelist, essayist, screenwriter, and critic, Robbe-Grillet is the leading exponent of the New Novel in France. His style has been described as cinematic: it depicts reality in rapidly changing scenes, revealing the flow of mental rather than physical life. He rejects the idea of the writer as social critic, maintaining that his work is a "search" and not an expression of social attitudes. (See also CLC, Vols. 1, 2, 4, 6, and Contemporary Authors, Vols. 9-12, rev. ed.)

With Alain Robbe-Grillet, fictional perspective takes the final step prepared for by Sartre and Camus of subordinating the entire spatio-temporal field to its trompe-l'oeil aspects. Robbe-Grillet's fictional world presents a single microcosmic enigma, a labyrinth in which as many readers are led astray as successfully enter and find an exit. In Dans le Labyrinthe Robbe-Grillet introduces and constantly maintains an ambiguous, enigmatic double perspective with unabashed temerity. It is from the labyrinth of its title that this slim volume comes to represent the vision not only of its author, but of the entire group of New Novelists and their disciples who continue to proliferate in France.

Creating a fiction about the creation of a fiction, Robbe-Grillet in Dans le Labyrinthe succeeds more completely than either Sartre or Camus, or indeed than any other New Novelist, in eliminating his personal voice from the novel. Robbe-Grillet's first-person narrator begins and ends the Labyrinthe by narrating a story about a soldier, whose third-person perspective determines his story within the story. Although Robbe-Grillet succeeds through this double perspective in eliminating his personal voice from the novel, he does not even attempt to eliminate the narrator's voice from intervening in his narrative so that interventions by the narrator will occur in the place of the more usual interventions by the author. Although such a technique seems simply to replace the author by the narrator, in fact, the author of Dans le Labyrinthe controls the fictional domain of the narrator, who in turn controls the fictional domain of the soldier. Robbe-Grillet's peculiar method of depicting an independent narrator in the throes of the creative process at the very outset of the Labyrinthe effectively adheres to Sartre's avowed esthetic purpose of setting both author and reader equidistant from the narrator who creates his fiction independent of either, yet dependent to a certain extent on both.

Rather than allow his narrator to discuss the creative process within his own fictional domain, as Proust, Gide, and Joyce have done, Robbe-Grillet introduces a narrator who shows the creative process at work in the construction of a fictional world different from his own, albeit one which is a reflection of his own. Robbe-Grillet's narrator does not reign as protagonist of the fictional field he creates; indeed, whether he is present within his narrative at all has been questioned.

It is Robbe-Grillet's development of reflection as a literary technique which determines the import of his novel. Although consciousness can proceed from author to narrator to character with no reversal in this novel, forms—objects, itineraries, events and persons within their physical limitations—can reflect precisely as in a mirror image, or approximately as in a shadow, from the narrative domain to the narrator's domain, and from both fictional domains to life itself. (pp. 101-02)

Robbe-Grillet's emphasis is upon the reiteration of single forms under various guises within a specific fictional world, so that his work lends itself easily to mythical and archetypal interpretation. Emphasis upon sameness and reflection works toward the unity of the work, the unity of the point of view, and the unity of the fictional...

(The entire section contains 3640 words.)

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Robbe-Grillet, Alain (Vol. 6)