Social Concerns / Themes

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

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In Djinn, readers familiar with Robbe-Grillet's work once again find themselves in a Kafkaesque world in which objects are so painstakingly described as to seem significant, although what they signify is never clarified, chronology is disordered, and events which seem to be taking place later appear not to have been "real" at all. Like The Erasers (1964; Les Gommes, 1953), Djinn is the story of a quest, although the object and purpose of the quest is far less certain here than in the earlier work. The narrator (he is called Simon LeCoeur, but his very identity is called into question throughout) enters a hangar at the appointed hour of six thirty where he is to meet someone. Seeing a man dressed in hat and trench coat, like a detective from "some old . . . movie of the thirties," he presents himself and recites the coded message. When the "man" answers, Simon realizes that "he" is a she. Shortly afterwards, however, the narrator again makes a discovery: "she" is not even a person, but a mannequin. The voice he has heard is coming from a tape recorder placed somewhere out of sight. Ordered by this disembodied voice to proceed upstairs, Simon then meets the "real" woman, an American from Boston named Jean (Simon first pronounces it "Djinn" and is corrected), and her double, Laura, who may or may not be a mannequin. As Simon is about to receive his first instructions, Jean/Djinn tells him, in what might just as well be a directive to the reader, that for reasons of "security" and "efficiency" she cannot reveal "the exact purpose of [the] mission nor the general goal of our undertaking."

The novel then proceeds to demonstrate — if it demonstrates anything at all — the veracity of that remark. The narrator follows his orders without knowing what is to be achieved; he often finds himself thwarted in his mission by seemingly random events (for example, missing the appointment at the Gare du Nord when a young boy...

(The entire section is 510 words.)