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Characters

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The characters in Djinn are no more fully delineated than in Robbe-Grillet's previous novels, and may be even less coherent. Names are given, but the individuals to whom they belong seem to shift. The names Boris and Laura evoke the characters in Un Regicide (1978), but here, Boris might be Simon, and Laura might be a mannequin, or even Djinn/Jean, whom she resembles. Djinn/Jean is not only the name of the American female, but also the name of the young boy who is hurt, or dead (he "dies often" according to Marie), and a later version of Marie — now called Djinn — tells Simon "all little boys are called Jean." Simon himself may be Djinn; the name, like its equivalent, Jean, is masculine in French. Also, according to the anonymous narrator of the prologue, Simon/Boris/Robin was known by his students as Yann "which they spelled Jan . . . none of them could say why." Robbe-Grillet seems again to be mocking the very idea of character as a coherent entity who can be pinpointed in time and space. The fact that some of the "characters" in this story may be nothing more than lifeless mannequins echoes Henri Peyre's assertion in French Novelists of Today that Alain Robbe-Grillet treated character as if it were a "mummy just good enough to be discarded." The mannequin Djinn/Jean is indeed discarded, "mortally wounded," although no wound is visible, oozing blood, even though mannequins do not bleed. Readers trying to get a clear sense of who is who in this novel may find themselves in the position of Simon's female alter ego near the end of the novel: "reason tumbling, into the void, in a vertiginous fall."

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