19 February 2008

R.I.P. Alain Robbe-Grillet

We take a break from our reading of Wood's book to note the death of Alain Robbe-Grillet, a French novelist who had some things to say pertinent to our discussion here. Below are quotes from his essay 'From Realism to Reality' in For A New Novel:
All writers believe they are realists. ... Realism is not a theory, defined without ambiguity, which would permit us to counter certain writers by certain others; it is, on the contrary, a flag under which the enormous majority—if not all—of today's novelists enlist. And no doubt we must believe them all, on this point. It is the real world which interests them; each one attempts as best as can to create "the real." ... Realism is the ideology which each brandishes against his neighbor, the quality which each believes he possesses for himself alone
...the novel is not a tool at all. It is not conceived with a view to a task defined in advance. It does not serve to set forth, to translate things existing before it, outside it. It does not express, it explores, and what it explores is itself.
Realism [according to Western academic criticism]...merely requires from the novel that it respect the truth. The author's qualities would be, chiefly, perspicacity in observation and the constant concern for plain speaking.
The style of the novel does not seek to inform, as does the chronicle, the testimony offered in evidence, or the scientific report, it constitutes reality. It never knows what it is seeking, it is ignorant of what it has to say; it is invention, invention of the world and of man, constant invention and perpetual interrogation.
[As a novelist] I do not transcribe, I construct. This had been even the old ambition of Flaubert: to make something out of nothing, something that would stand alone, without having to lean on anything external to the work; today this is the ambition of the novel as a whole.
In this new realism, it is therefore no longer verisimilitude that is at issue. The little detail which "rings true" no longer holds the attention of the novelist, in the spectacle of the world or in literature; what strikes him—and what we recognize after many avatars in his writings—is more likely, on the contrary, the little detail that rings false.

No comments: