Critical Evaluation

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

The Interrogation was published in 1963, and its author, J. M. G. Le Clézio, was a twenty-three-year-old, unknown to the public. The novel received the Renaudot Prize. Critics saw in it the influence of Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, James Joyce, Franz Kafka, and others. Le Clézio is acclaimed as an heir to le nouveau roman, or the New Novel, and as a brilliant writer. He has since published close to fifty works, and he received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2008.

The novel’s preliminary letter to the reader signed by Le Clézio announces that The Interrogation is a “kind of game or jigsaw puzzle.” Why? In a traditional story, the events, however extraordinary, are presented with certainty. Here, the protagonist himself does not know whether he has just left the army or just left a mental home. Nothing in the plot will clarify his doubts. His mother, in her letter to him, assures him that he was in the army, but the newspaper notice published after his arrest identifies him as a mental patient. For the reader, the question is left unanswered.

An interrogation that takes place in the psychiatric establishment is also the interrogation present in the reader’s mind. The interrogation brings only a partial answer, and it brings even more questions: Does it describe Adam’s mental condition, or is it the conclusion of medical authorities who are more anxious to be on time for dinner than to reach the human being hidden behind the name Adam Pollo?

What about the name itself? This story’s Adam lives in the 1960’s, but he is the first man created by young Le Clézio, and also the man by antonomasia. The novel is about the nature of mental illness; it is also about the human condition in general. Furthermore, as critic Jennifer Waelti-Walters points out, combining the protagonist’s last name—Pollo—with his first name’s initial—A—spells the word “apollo,” or Apollo, the Greek god. Apollo is an apt name for the exceptionally intelligent and educated protagonist, who lives his intellectual adventure in August, under the blazing Mediterranean sun that he often complains about.

A second possibility, supported by the text, must be noted here. Pollo is derived from the name Poll, the name of the parrot of novelist Daniel Defoe’s character Robinson Crusoe. This possibility is suggested by the quotation from Defoe that heads Le Clézio’s novel. In this humorous quotation, Robinson declares that his parrot is the only “person” allowed to talk to him at his table. It is a reference to the solitude in which both Robinson and Adam live. It also suggests that, when it comes to human interaction, human language is as limited as that of a parrot.

Adam is faced with a dilemma. If he relies on...

(The entire section is 1141 words.)