Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

The interrogator

The interrogator, a criminal investigator of indeterminate age and sex. The interrogator is patient; thorough; obsessed with the details of the possible crime to whose investigation he or she has been assigned; quick-minded, able to remember the smallest details of the affidavit being recorded by a secretary nearby; particularly attentive to information of a perverse or sexual nature; and terse in the wording of questions, possibly simply because they must be written down (the subject of the “grilling” is deaf). The interrogator is professional but indifferent to the discomfort caused by the prolonged questioning and orchestrates the pace of the narrative with two commands: “Go on” and “Cut it short.”

The interrogee

The interrogee, an old family retainer or general factotum. He is deaf (but not from birth) and in service to two or possibly three “gentlemen” on a French country estate. His crystal-clear account of the incidents surrounding the disappearance of the secretary to his employers, along with his detailed descriptions of the countryside, the towns, the rooms of every estate, and the personalities and foibles of the inhabitants of his world, make up the text of the novel. Sometimes loquacious, sometimes hesitant, and sometimes angry at the interrogator, but always articulate (his speeches lack punctuation except for occasional commas), he relates what he knows, or what he...

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The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

The old man dominates the novel. Everything is seen through his eyes, and by the time he has finished his long ordeal (actually the novel simply ends—there is no reason to think that the questioner is necessarily through with his subject), he has taken on considerable life. He is a shrewd, superstitious countryman whose long experience has taught him much about human nature. He apparently has the instincts of a born gossip, a faculty that gives his testimony vitality and insight. He witnesses the goings-on at the chateau with curiosity, but if he feels any disapprobation about the values and behavior of the two gentlemen, he seldom reveals it. Only an intelligent man could recall so many details with such precision, and he is remarkably articulate and well versed in such matters as the names of the gods represented in the statues. At the same time, he is capable of such gross malapropisms as “peddermint” for “pediment” and “Cubid” for “Cupid.” Ultimately, perhaps, he is a congeries of attributes that do not always fit together convincingly, but as a narrative voice for a chronicle of social history, he is generally appealing and satisfying.


(Great Characters in Literature)

Bann, Stephen. “Robert Pinget,” in The London Magazine. IV (October 7, 1964), pp. 22-35.

Cismarie, Alfred. “Robert Pinget: An Introduction,” in American Benedictine Review. XIX (June, 1968), pp. 203-210.

Henkels, Robert M., Jr. Robert Pinget: The Novel as Quest, 1979.

Knapp, Bettina, ed. French Novelists Speak Out, 1976.

Mercier, Vivian. The New Novel from Queneau to Pinget, 1971.

Oppenheim, Lois, ed. Three Decades of the French New Novel, 1986.