Themes and Meanings
As an antinovel, a work of fiction whose avowed purpose is the virtual annihilation of standard plot and characterization, The Planetarium nevertheless makes a statement about the fragility of human relationships and the difficulty, if not impossibility, of direct communication between people. None of the characters makes a commitment, none acts in a positive way. Instead, each questions personal perceptions, evaluates feelings, anatomizes observations, appearances, and statements, until all the characters seem almost paranoically insecure. At best, such insecurity is merely stabilized by a concern for material things. In an attempt to anchor themselves to the only solid ground of which they are certain, the characters preoccupy themselves with the trivial, the worldly. Spiritual values do not exist; only physical sensations exist.
In this context, the novel may be observed—as through a telescope—as a sort of comedy of manners, each character marshaling his or her inchoate actions and conversations in pursuit of a particular goal: the acquisition of goods, the wheedling of an apartment, the palliation of a wounded ego. Such comedy permits the reader brief views of the world of the literati, a closed society of would-be writers with nothing to say. It also allows the reader to glimpse the nearer world of shallow bourgeois values.