ALAIN ROBBE-GRILLET THE VOYEUR PDF

Qty :. When Mathias, a travelling watch salesman, returns after many years to the island of his birth, a young girl is found dead on the rocks. As Mathias makes an increasingly tense recapitulation of his movements on the day of the event, tiny details slowly and inexorably accumulate. Through the warped screen of his distorted mind, the remembered images pile up until the reader is caught in his web of desperation. And yet in the end reality has lost all meaning, as the distinction between the narrator's recollections and the underlying facts are more and more blurred.

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T he V oyeur by Alain Robbe-Grillet. E ssay by Ted Gioia For a few brief decades in the 20th century important writers were expected to break the rules, violate all conventions, and in general rock the bloody boat. Instead of garnering praise by mastering the techniques of the trade, they made their name by subverting the accepted methodologies. In Ulysses , James Joyce inserted a single sentence that ran on for 4, words—longer than many short stories. In Gadsby Ernest Vincent Wright delivered a page novel without using the letter 'e' at any point.

One of these books became a classic and the other merely an oddity, but the same animating dis - regard for the accepted rules is evident in both. Alain Robbe-Grillet can hardly be understood outside the context of this desire to trample on the norms of narrative fiction. There have always been new novels, but he considered himself an exponent of the new novel.

How many basic rules of narrative are violated in The Voyeur? But then he is alive—with no explanation—in the next section of the book. Or is it? Meanwhile a young girl on the island where the novel takes place is murdered. Or maybe she is not murdered, and has died in an accident. Her name is Jacqueline. That is, except when her name is Violet. And the murderer is….. All the circumstantial evidence points to Mathias, the traveling salesman who is the main protagonist of The Voyeur , as the killer.

Since the omniscient narrator allows us to eavesdrop on Mathias's thoughts, we can follow as the suspect tries to construct an alibi and explain the mounting evidence against him. But in a novel in which even the most tangible facts and situations can change after the fact, no one— protagonist, narrator, author—is entirely trustworthy. The very metaphysics of Robbe-Grillet's universe seem to run counter to the notion of "guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Chronology is equally fluid here, with flashbacks intruding in such a predatory manner, frequently arriving unannounced in mid- paragraph, that the reader struggles to tell when memory or imagination substitute for direct observation. If this is truly the new novel, you may find yourself nostalgic for the old ones where hard facts don't change and dead characters won't come back to life without a good reason. Robbe-Grillet adds to these various misleading feints by pretending to follow an almost geometrically precise description of reality, where subjectivity is replaced by disinterested analysis of sensory data.

No one has done more than this author to try to reduce fiction to Euclidean description. Here is non atypical passage, where Robbe-Grillet is describing a lamp: It consists of two superimposed rings of equal tangent circles—rings, more exactly, since their centers are hollow—each ring of the upper series being exactly above a ring of the lower row to which it is joined for a fraction of an inch.

The flame itself, produced from a circular wick, appears in the form of a triangle deeply scalloped at the apex, therefore exhibiting two points rather than just one. Did you get that? Yet Robbe-Grillet believes that this type of description gets us "beyond interpretation" and directly cognizant of the object in itself.

The peculiarity here stems from the sharp contrast between the precise geometrical demonstrations of t he narrative and the fanciful unreality of the facts presented. Our author works hard to achieve a quasi-mathematical accuracy while also undermining it at every turn. In the truest sense of the term, this novel is self-cancelling at almost every juncture. Other aspects of The Voyeur present a similar clash between precision and ambiguity.

For example, our protagonist Mathias is a watch salesman, and literally runs his own life by the minute, or even the second. He calculates the average time per sales call, and constantly revises his forecast of the anticipated duration of every activity of his work day. This character trait figures prominently in the plot, which increasingly turns on Mathias's attempts to construct an itinerary for his actions that will prove his innocence. In almost any other mystery novel, this would be a straightforward part of the plot.

But in a story where nothing can be tabulated with confidence, an accounting of the minutes and seconds is strange window-dressing indeed. In the context of a novel by Robbe-Grillet, who plays fast-and-loose with the chronology and flashbacks of his narrative, we can only view this preoccupation with precise measurements of time as an ironic sidebar on the main event. In the final analysis, The Voyeur will probably frustrate more than engage you. The very novelties of this "new" novel call too much attention to themselves, and will strike most readers as extrinsic to the story— forced on us to show off the avant-garde credentials of Mr.

Robbe-Grillet rather than draw us into the story. Then again, that may be the inevitable result whenever an author prides himself on advancing the new novel before bothering to master the old one. Ted Gioia writes on music, literature and pop culture. Publication date of this essay: August 23, N ew A ngles on an O ld G enre. P ostmodern M ystery. Postmodern Mystery is a web site devoted to experimental, unconventional and postmodern approaches to stories of mystery and suspense.

Click on image to purchase. Follow Ted Gioia on Twitter at www. Ripley Norman N. Visit our companion sites The New Canon A guide to outstanding works of fiction published since Conceptual Fiction Celebrating masterworks of science fiction, fantasy, alternate history and magical realism Great Books Guide A look at contemporary currents in literature Fractious Fiction Exploring modernist fiction and its aftermath.

Yet this controversial author never took advantage of—in the parlance of the arresting officer—the right to remain silent. Still it took him many years before he found his vocation as a leader of an avant-garde literary movement. Robbe-Grillet first studied agricultural engineering, worked as a machinist in a compulsory labor program at a Nurem- berg tank factory during World War II, and later made a living as an agronomist.

He didn't publish novels until his thirties, when The Erasers , followed up by The Voyeur and Jealousy , announced the arrival of a provocative writer who irritated many readers with his disregard of the conventions of narrative fiction, but delighted influential critics such as Barthes and Blanchot for this very same reason.

He later went on to direct his own films, none of them showing up at your local downtown megaplex or on TV during sweeps week. In truth, Robbe-Grillet paid a price for his ostentatious disregard of the rules other artists followed. His name eventually became emblematic of a certain prissy pretentiousness. And that film did make it to your hometown mall movie screens and on to the shelves at Blockbuster.

Yet for others, Robbe-Grillet is remembered fondly as an author from an age in which certain grand expectations for change and novelty still adhered to literary fiction. This author may ultimately be remembered less for his body of work, and more for that glorification of rule-breaking, oddly enough both austere and expansive in his case, towards which he always aspired.

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Alain Robbe-Grillet

A new chateau perhaps, whose grand cru goes well with meat? An up-and-coming couturier? How times have changed. Starting in the s, the novelist, filmmaker and literary theorist Alain Robbe-Grillet, who died last week at 85, had a profound impact on international taste. Robbe-Grillet was the very model of a postwar avant-gardist. His attempts to wrest fiction free from 19th-century constraints like plot and character, and to wrest objects free from imposed meaning, were never entirely popular with readers but had a decisive influence on critical theory and on the art of the novel, as well as on film, art and even psychology. Howard recalled his first meeting with the novelist, who was also a trained agronomist, in the mids.

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