Robert Nye Gillian Freeman - Essay

Gillian Freeman

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Alain Robbe-Grillet is, I suppose, the high-priest of the roman nouveau. I have never been an acolyte of the movement…. I confess I find Robbe-Grillet's flat prose style … excruciatingly tedious…. I felt much the same frustration as I read Robert Nye's Doubtfire. This is a ranging exploration of the mind of an adolescent boy who, developing towards sexual maturity, is unable to sort out reality from fantasy. The interaction of truth and fear and wish and memory, which ultimately leads him to attempt suicide, form a tightly interlocking narrative…. [With] the stylised names and speech one cannot tell where the characters are merely extensions of the boy's own personality, and where he has absorbed them from actuality…. (p. 176)

Robert Nye is funny, savage, witty, sharp and illuminatingly visual. I wanted to enter wholly into this disturbed boy's mind as the author had done, but I only achieved isolated moments of identification and comprehension. (p. 177)

Gillian Freeman, in New Statesman (© 1968 The Statesman & Nation Publishing Co. Ltd.), February 9, 1968.

Robert Nye's poems in Darker Ends are so reticent they need to be hunted at night with an infra-red lamp. One called "Let It Go" will serve to demonstrate the poet's well-mannered whisper; unfortunately it is also typical of his attack:

             Snow fell so quick
             that snow was melt
             before it lasted on the ground.
             The fleering pane
             of gloomy fire
             turned steadfastness to water also.

It's the kind of thing you recite after trotting out from behind a screen with a paper flower in your hand. (p. 109)

The Times Literary Supplement (© Times Newspapers Ltd. (London) 1970; reproduced from The Times Literary Supplement by permission), January 29, 1970.