The “Nouveau Roman”: where to start?

The Nouveau Roman was a French Modernist literary movement of the 1950s whose antecedents were Joyce, Beckett and Proust. A common theme among the works produced by those writers grouped as nouveax romanistes were "discontinuity, rupture, difference and revolution"¹, and they defined themselves against "a dominant culture in thrall to a staid and anachronistic concept … Continue reading The “Nouveau Roman”: where to start?

Marguerite Duras

Alma continue their attractive re-packaging of the Calder backlist1 with The Garden Square, one of the lesser-known gems by Marguerite Duras, best known for The Lover (l'Amant) and the screenplay for Alain Resnais's Hiroshima Mon Amour. Although grouped with the 1950s French nouveau roman, her work eschews the formal innovation of Butor or Alain Robbe-Grillet. … Continue reading Marguerite Duras

Alain Robbe-Grillet: early fiction (part 3)

In this final part of my study of Robbe-Grillet's early fiction, with today being what would have been his 95th birthday, I'll look at the novel which, for me, sees him reach the high-point of the nouveau-roman; and a series of experimental (in the true sense of the word) short fictions. By the time of … Continue reading Alain Robbe-Grillet: early fiction (part 3)

Alain Robbe-Grillet: early fiction (part 2)

In Part 1 of this essay I looked at Robbe-Grillet's first two novels (A Regicide and The Erasers), in which it is easy to trace the development of the techniques and motifs that he would refine and re-use throughout his career. The first novels are in many ways conventional, and this is because the techniques … Continue reading Alain Robbe-Grillet: early fiction (part 2)

Claude Ollier’s “Law and Order” (1961)

I wrote a review recently of Ollier's best-known (in English, which isn't saying much) work, The Mise-en-Scene. As one of the less-publicised nouveau-roman authors, only four of his books have been translated into English. The first of these - Law and Order (translated by Ursule Molinaro) - was published in 1971 by Red Dust in … Continue reading Claude Ollier’s “Law and Order” (1961)

Alain Robbe-Grillet: Early fiction (part 1)

If the nouveau roman (New Novel) had a driving force, it was Alain Robbe-Grillet (1922-2008). The nouveau roman was an influential - if rarely best-selling - literary movement in post-war France. A number of writers, generally but not exclusively connected to the publishers Editions de Minuit, sought appropriate ways to take fiction forward in a … Continue reading Alain Robbe-Grillet: Early fiction (part 1)

None the wiser: Claude Ollier’s “The Mise-en-Scene” (1958)

A confession: I'd never heard of Claude Ollier until a few weeks ago. Although I've read numerous mid-century French nouveau romanistes (Robbe-Grillet, Duras, Sarraute, Simon, Butor, Pinget) I had never come across any reference to Ollier, probably because his work had not been published by John Calder, and the few English translations of his work … Continue reading None the wiser: Claude Ollier’s “The Mise-en-Scene” (1958)

L’année dernière à Manderley

I’ve long wanted to read – or to write, and I’ve tried1 – something which marries the claustrophobic atmosphere of Daphne du Maurier’s short stories (such as ‘The Birds’ and ‘Don’t Look Now’ obviously, and also ‘The Blue Lenses’), with the formal experimentation of French nouveau-romaniste Alain Robbe-Grillet (1922-2008). Although they both published some of … Continue reading L’année dernière à Manderley

Calder Books – a celebration

From the briefest of biographical details, John Calder would seem an unlikely revolutionary. Scion of a brewing dynasty, he once stood for election as the Liberal candidate for his home seat of Kinross. But at 90 this Scottish-Canadian publisher is still active, and still fighting against the forces of cultural reaction. Few publishers can claim … Continue reading Calder Books – a celebration