(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Triptych is one of Claude Simon’s most difficult novels to read, yet it is also a fascinating creation. The only true means of organizing Triptych comes from its three place settings: the farm, the beach, and the city. These locales interlock intriguingly. For example, Simon has a city theater showing a film that is the story of Corinne at the beach. While the actress playing Corinne takes a break from the filming, she reads a book that is about the young groom in the city. Similarly, the two young farmboys find discarded pieces of film from the motion picture about Corinne at the beach. Toward the end of the novel, Lambert completes a jigsaw puzzle that depicts the farm valley, and the two boys are in that bucolic scene. These are merely a few examples of how Simon encloses one story within the mechanisms of another. The effect of this constant shifting is a mild shock to the reader, who is being shown constantly that what he mistook for the real story of Triptych is but a section contained in another story that itself may be the true one. These shifts of focus, while perhaps annoying to some readers, do support Simon’s theory that all fictions are false and unreliable, and that the reader should never take them to be accurate depictions of reality.

Simon reiterates the theme of the falseness of art in other ways. As the novel begins, Simon describes a postcard of the beach scene lying on a table in a farmhouse. He explains to the reader about how poorly reproduced the colors are on that postcard. Similarly, during the showing of films (which occurs often), the projector breaks down more than once. At one point, after showing a very sensual love scene, the projector actually burns a hole in the film, one example of Simon’s infrequent humor.

Although it is scattered in jigsaw like pieces throughout Triptych, a semblance of a plot or plots does gradually emerge. In the farm sequences, two young boys go fishing, swim at a waterfall, spy on a couple making passionate love in a...

(The entire section is 833 words.)