(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Traditional terms of literary analysis such as “plot” and “character” do not apply comfortably to the New Novel form credited to Alain Robbe-Grillet. In a series of essays collected under the title Pour un nouveau roman (1963; For a New Novel, 1965), Robbe-Grillet describes such terms as “several obsolete notions”:We are so accustomed to discussions of “character,” “atmosphere,” “form,” and “content,” of “message” and “narrative ability” and “true novelists” that it requires an effort to free ourselves from this spider web and realize that it represents an idea about the novel (a ready-made idea, which everyone admits without argument, hence a dead idea), and not at all that..."nature” of the novel in which we are supposed to believe.

With this warning in place, Robbe-Grillet describes his New Novel, in which the act of writing is the form itself, and in which the minute description of objective reality is intertwined with fanciful conjecture, dream states, feverishly subjective distortions, and pure invention, none of which answers to any chronological sequence as assumed in the traditional novel. Nor is character defined in the same way, since no psychologically recognizable or three-dimensional portraits are proffered by the writer. The novel is peopled instead by rather vaguely identified and often amorphous creatures, ambiguous and unstructured, about whom the reader knows only the external details of their lives.

In the Labyrinth, Robbe-Grillet’s fourth novel, stands as his most fully realized example of the theories he only partially succeeded in illustrating in his previous novels....

(The entire section is 690 words.)