(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

A literary circle is meeting to discuss a novel called The Golden Fruits. The members of the group pride themselves on their artistic expertise, both for visual and for written works, and on their critical acumen. One member takes a postcard reproduction of a Gustave Courbet painting from his vest pocket and passes it among the members to gauge their opinions on the postcard’s value. Everyone, with the exception of one man, looks at the reproduction and affirms its artistic worth, reenforcing the possessor’s sense of expertise and sound critical judgment. However, one person passes the reproduction on without even glancing at it, devastating the man who owns the postcard.

A conversation ensues between the man who ignored the reproduction and the person to whom he passed it. Accused of impoliteness, of causing agony to the possessor, the man defends his right not to enter into the foolish charade of admiration. He feels that the Courbet is familiar to everyone in the circle and insists that they all probably have one just like it themselves. He adds that the possessor of the reproduction had not discovered anything unique, nor had he shared some sort of secret. The other person continues to blame the man for refusing to interact in the fraternity of the group.

The conversation then passes to the discussion of The Golden Fruits. The person who had been appalled by the other man’s rudeness makes a gesture toward the...

(The entire section is 568 words.)


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

A parable of artistic creation, Sarraute’s work describes the reputation of a fictional novel with the same title as her own. The Golden Fruits is first discovered by an elite few, championed by the critics, becomes popular with the masses, and then is gradually discredited and forgotten except by a few discriminating readers. Sarraute’s work, however, is not a treatise about artistic values but a work about human interaction.

The book, a mundane object, prompts primitive emotional responses of snobbery, timidity, and fear. Sarraute ironically expresses the inner anxieties of even the most self-assured critics. The various shades of response are conveyed through spoken conversation and the counterpoint of unspoken subconversation. Conversation is not linked to individual characters, and the connection between conversations is also difficult to establish.

The response to the fictional book The Golden Fruits rarely emerges as genuine—direct contact between the audience and the aesthetic object—but as false, preconditioned by others’ responses to the object. Sarraute catalogs the false response to the fictional novel as she depicts its rising popularity. In the first chapter, an elite group of connoisseurs is enthusiastically discussing The Golden Fruits as they do other works of art that have not achieved popular recognition. Their membership encourages conformity and security of shared aesthetic tastes....

(The entire section is 519 words.)


(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Barbour, Sarah. Nathalie Sarraute and the Feminist Reader: Identities in Process. Lewisburg, Pa.: Bucknell University Press, 1993. A feminist analysis of Sarraute’s work, including The Golden Fruits.

Jefferson, Ann. Nathalie Sarraute, Fiction and Theory: Questions of Difference. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000. A good examination of Sarraute’s concept of the novel and her ideas on reading and on how traditional criticism blocks the reader’s contact with the text. Discusses Sarraute’s belief that sharing one’s reading experience can be a valid form of criticism.

Minogue, Valerie. Nathalie Sarraute and the War of Words: A Study of Five Novels. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1981. Gives important insights into Sarraute’s use of language and into the power of language in her work and in contact between individuals.

O’Beirne, Emer. Reading Nathalie Sarraute: Dialogue and Distance. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. An overview of Sarraute’s prose writing as it moves from a primary concern with reader response to a self-sufficient internal dialogue lacking an authorial voice. Also discusses the interrelationship of language, experience, and text as well as the contact of the reader with the text and the relationship of the writer to the reader. Includes a good index.

Sarraute, Nathalie. The Age of Suspicion: Essays on the Novel. Translated by Maria Jolas. 1963. First paperback ed. New York: George Braziller, 1990. The essays contain Sarraute’s basic ideas and concepts regarding writing and her quest to find a style of her own. Very useful for understanding the deliberate lack of plot and traditional character development in The Golden Fruits.

Willging, Jennifer. Telling Anxiety: Anxious Narration in the Work of Marguerite Duras, Annie Ernaux, Nathalie Sarraute, and Anne Hébert. Toronto, Ont.: University of Toronto Press, 2007. Does not discuss The Golden Fruits but analyzes Sarraute’s distrust of language’s ability to express phenomena other than those that are linguistic. Also sees her work as reflecting a fear shared by the four writers.