(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Jealousy, Alain Robbe-Grillet’s third published novel, takes place in a house on an isolated banana plantation somewhere in the Western Hemisphere, perhaps on an island, perhaps on the South American mainland. The book opens with the description of a shadow cast by one of the house pillars and then moves to a description of A... and her activities, then to a railing, then back to A..., then to the general physical surroundings of the plantation. The tone of the novel is now set; a calm, detached, almost scientific description of what the narrator sees and hears. The passages that describe the most important observations of the narrator are repeated at various times throughout the book and in no discernible chronological or spatial order.

At least in part because the title of the book is Jealousy, most critics believe that the narrator is a man and married to A.... According to their reading, he is insanely jealous of A... and suspects her of having an affair with Franck. Nevertheless, one notable critic, Maurice Blanchot, states that the narrator is not a person but only a pure, anonymous presence. Such an interpretation would be more in keeping with Robbe-Grillet’s theories on literature as expressed in his Pour un nouveau roman (1963; For a New Novel, 1965). It must be noted that the original French title is La Jalousie and that a “jalousie” in French—and also in British English—is a venetian blind. There are, in fact, venetian blinds on the windows of the house, and the narrator spends a good part of the time peering through them. Then, too, Robbe-Grillet posed for the photograph that appears on the cover of the Grove Press 1965 combined edition of Jealousy and Dans le labyrinthe (1959; In the Labyrinth, 1960), and that photo shows him looking through a venetian blind.

While Robbe-Grillet’s first book, Les Gommes (1953; The Erasers, 1964), has a plot, and his second Le Voyeur (1955; The Voyeur, 1958) has at least part of a plot, Jealousy has only a series of scenes that may roughly be divided into two groups: connecting scenes and critical scenes....

(The entire section is 900 words.)


(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

The narrator suspects his wife, A . . . , of infidelity with their neighbor Franck. The narrator and Franck own banana plantations; they and their wives form a little enclave of French colonialism in the tropics, with common concerns about crops, the weather, and the unreliability of native workers. Most important, they share emotions of boredom and loneliness. For Franck and A . . . , the consequence is an affair—at least, so it seems. For the narrator, the consequence is the intense jealousy produced by his suspicions.

Franck and his wife, Christiane, were frequent dinner guests of the narrator and his wife in the past. Christiane seems not to get along well with A . . . ; that, together with her child’s reported illness and her own vague ailments, keep her away, although her husband continues to visit. At one of these dinners, Franck mentions that he has to go to town the next week to see about various business matters, principally getting a new truck. The subject of motor trouble came up in earlier conversations, along with the difficulty of obtaining adequate repair and the unreliability of native drivers. Franck suggests that A . . . might like to accompany him for a day of shopping. She gladly accepts; they agree to leave at six-thirty in the morning and be back by night.

Franck and A . . . leave at the agreed time but do not return by nightfall. Instead, they show up the next day, saying that car trouble forced them to spend the...

(The entire section is 553 words.)