Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

In a lecture in 1970, Pinget observed that his characters and setting “exist not as defined but as in the process of definition”; he uses what he calls “continual metamorphosis” to mirror the uncertainty and instability of the late twentieth century. Architruc assumes numerous avatars in the course of the novel, as does his domain of Fantoine and Agapa. The valley of Chancheze in Pinget’s previous work, Graal flibuste (1956), had contained a temple; now that building has yielded to a factory for manufacturing rat pelts.

While these constant alterations serve a serious thematic purpose, they also parody conventional genres. Graal flibuste rewrites the novel of quest as a journey to nowhere. Similarly, Baga assaults autobiographical fiction by presenting a narrator so unreliable that nothing is certain—not his age, not his sex, not even his actions or the reasons for them. Baga also shares the surrealism of Pinget’s earlier books, in which a steeple (clocher) may be a coachman (coacher) and a cucumber may choose to get a suntan.

At the same time, this book’s search for reality anticipates Clope au dossier (1961) and subsequent novels by Pinget in which various characters try to piece together reality from clues that refuse to yield their secrets. Baga thus occupies an important place in Pinget’s canon, both epitomizing his earlier work and foreshadowing even the 1971 play Identite, suivi de Abel et Bela, which, as its name suggests, once more explores the problem of self-knowledge.