Alain Robbe-Grillet enjoyed immediate success in the French literary community. He received a literary prize for each of his first two novels and was referred to as one of the most talented and interesting of the young novelists who were experimenting with the novel form. However, his novels were not praised by everyone. The traditionalist literary critics, who insisted that novels should contain all the elements that made a work a novel in the nineteenth century, had little praise for his work. For them, the novel structure (plot, character, description, and narrative chronology), had been well defined by the realist writers, and contemporary novelists had only to follow the model. Although the jury for the Prix des Critiques awarded Robbe-Grillet their prize for Le Voyeur (1955; The Voyeur, 1958), some members of the jury expressed reservations about calling the work a novel. The critics employed by the newspapers and the reading public found his novels difficult and unreadable.
Robbe-Grillet published a number of articles in newspapers and magazines in an attempt to convince his detractors that his works were readable novels. The articles changed few opinions but placed him at the head of the movement for the creation of the New Novel (le nouveau roman). Although he had no intention of setting forth a theory of the novel, the articles that contained his ideas about the novel form did precisely that in the eyes of the literary critics, whether they were favorable to him or not. Thus he disseminated not only the theoretical basis for the New Novel but a definition of the novel as a genre.
Because many of Robbe-Grillet’s novels contain elements of the mystery and detective genre, particularly espionage, murders, and murder investigations, Robbe-Grillet in reinventing the novel has enlarged the scope of mystery and detective fiction by adding greater complexity to it and by creating multilayered, multifaceted texts that are themselves mysteries to be solved.