Robert Pinget Analysis

Other Literary Forms

Robert Pinget began his literary career with the 1951 publication of Entre Fantoine et Agapa (1951; Between Fantoine and Agapa, 1982), a collection of short stories. Later he wrote more than a dozen experimental, highly innovative novels. Among these are Mahu: Ou, Le Matériau (1952; Mahu: Or, The Material, 1966), Baga (1958; English translation, 1967), Le Fiston (1959; No Answer, 1961; also as Mr. Levert), Clope au dossier (1961), L’Inquisitoire (1962; The Inquisitory, 1966), Quelqu’un (1965; Someone, 1984), Le Libéra (1968; The Libera Me Domine, 1972), Passacaille (1969; Recurrent Melody, 1975; also as Passacaglia, 1978), Cette voix (1975; That Voice, 1982), Le Harnais (1984), and Du nerf (1990; Be Brave, 1995).


In his fiction, and in the plays that derive from it, Robert Pinget created and peopled the mapless region of Fantoine and Agapa. This is a world not of being but of becoming, constantly changing from work to work and even within particular books. As Pinget described his fictional universe in a lecture at Williams College on April 21, 1970, his characters and setting “exist not as defined but as in the process of definition.” This “continual metamorphosis”—Pinget’s term—mirrors the uncertainty and instability of the late twentieth century.

For many readers and viewers, Pinget’s techniques rendered his works inaccessible. Although his works have been translated into eleven languages, he enjoyed less recognition than such fellow experimenters as Samuel Beckett and Eugène Ionesco. Still, critical response was warm. The Inquisitory won the Prix des Critiques (1963), and two years later, Someone received the Prix Femina. The Ford Foundation awarded him a grant in 1960, and the French government recognized his achievements with a subsidized sabbatical (1975-1976).

Other literary forms

In addition to his novels, Robert Pinget (pihn-ZHAY) wrote short stories as well as a number of plays for the radio and the stage. His dramatic works include Lettre morte (pr., pb. 1959; Dead Letter, 1963), Ici ou ailleurs (pr., pb. 1961; Clope, 1963), L’Hypothèse (pr., pb. 1961; The Hypothesis, 1967), Architruc (pr., pb. 1961; English translation, 1967), Abel et Bela (pr., pb. 1971; Abel and Bela, 1987); and Un Testament bizarre (pb. 1986; A Bizarre Will, 1989).


Hailed by John Updike as “one of the noblest figures in world literature,” winner of the Prix de la Critique (1962), the Prix Femina (1965) and the Grand Prix National des Lettres (1987), a writer whose works have been translated into at least nineteen languages and whose plays have been performed by the Comédie-Française, and recognized by his peers among the French New Novelists as a “writer’s writer,” Robert Pinget was one of the most innovative of modern French authors. His work serves as an informative bridge between the conventions of traditional fiction and the experimental forms of the post-World War II years, and it illuminates indirectly the theoretical explorations of late twentieth century French literary criticism.


Chambers, Ross. The World Around Mortin: A Reading of Robert Pinget’s “Autour de Mortin.” North Ryde, Australia: Macquarie University, School of Modern Languages, 1973. Offers a close reading and interpretation of Pinget’s radio play, Autour de Mortin.

Esslin, Martin. The Theatre of the Absurd. 3d ed. New York: Penguin Books, 1991. Examines an important movement in twentieth century drama, one with which Pinget has been associated. Some specific discussion of Pinget included. Bibliography and index.

Fetzer, Glenn W. “A Critical Bibliography of Robert Pinget.” Review of Contemporary Fiction 3 (1983). Listing of forty-one books, articles, and reviews in French and English; provides a good starting place for the student seeking additional information on the writer.

Henkels, Robert M., Jr. Robert Pinget: The Novel as Quest. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1979. Examines the overriding theme of search and journey in Pinget’s works.

Livingstone, Beverly. “From A to F and Back: Pinget’s Fictive Arena.” Yale French Studies 57 (1979). Through a close reading of Someone, Livingstone explores Pinget’s fictional world.

Mercier, Vivian. The New Novel from Queneau to Pinget. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1971. Includes discussion of Pinget.

Oppenheim, Lois, ed. Three Decades of the French New Novel. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1986. Includes discussion of Pinget.

Review of Contemporary Fiction 3, no. 2 (Summer, 1983). Entire issue is devoted to Pinget and Jack Kerouac.

Rosmarin, Leonard A. Robert Pinget. New York: Twayne, 1995. Provides criticism and interpretation of Pinget’s life and works. Bibliography and index.

Updike, John. “Grove Is My Press and Avant My Garde.” The New Yorker, November 4, 1967. An appreciation that concentrates on The Inquisitory.

Updike, John. “Pinget.” The New Yorker, September 17, 1979. An appreciation that concentrates on The Libera Me Domine and Recurrent Melody.