Read Jealousy by Alain Robbe-Grillet Free Online
Book Title: Jealousy|
The author of the book: Alain Robbe-Grillet
Edition: Riverrun Press (New York, NY)
Date of issue: December 1st 1995
ISBN 13: 9780714503110
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 1.36 MB
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Reader ratings: 3.2
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“The world is neither meaningful, nor absurd. it quite simply is, and that, in any case, is what is so remarkable about it.”
― Alain Robbe-Grillet
For anyone interested in exploring the fiction of the Nouveu Roman (New Novel), Alain Robbe-Grillet’s 100-page novella, “Jealousy,” would make for a great start, a prime example of the author’s unique style, a style highlighting precise, mathematical and frequently repetitive descriptions of objects rather than the novel’s more traditional emphasis on inner psychology or stream-of-consciousness. Reading this short novel set on a banana plantation within the tropics made for one unique literary experience; more specifically, here are six themes most piquant:
Novel As Film
English “Jealousy” is a translation of the French “Jalousie,” and in French there is a second meaning of this word -- ‘shutters’, that is, window shutters. Actually, I don’t know if any other reviewer or literary critic noted a third possible meaning: camera shutter, as in camera shutter speed working in concert with the aperture settings of a film camera. It’s this third meaning I particularly enjoy since one possible interpretation of the novel is ‘novel-as-film,’ that is, the two main character, a man and a women, could be leading actors in a film with the objective 3rd person narrator as film director, Incidentally, Robbe-Grillet was one of the top French film directors of his day.
Detail, Detail, Detail
On the first two pages we are given a blueprint of the house, courtyard and surrounding banana trees along with a legend labeling ten different parts of the house. And throughout the novel the detail continues, expressed in a kind of mechanical drawing length-and-width language, descriptions overwhelmingly visual, as if outlining specifics for a film crew to construct a set and do a filming. Mechanical engineering-like detail also applies to the surrounding banana trees, for example, here is a snippet from a full two pages description: “Without bothering with the order in which the actually visible banana trees and the cut banana trees occur, the sixth row gives the following number: twenty-two, twenty-one, twenty, nineteen – which represent respectively the rectangle, the true trapezoid, the trapezoid with a curved edge, and the same after subtracting the holes cut in the harvest.”
Alienation From Nature
The way the author writes about man-made objects and nature, one has the distinct impression the two main characters, Franck and A . . . (yes, we are only given the lady’s first initial and three dots) are in a running battle with such as engines continually breaking down as well as tropical heat, the deafening racket of crickets, the dark of the night and particularly one species of insect, sometimes wriggling, sometimes squished, described in minute detail: the centipede. Recall how Albert Camus wrote frequently about man’s estrangement and alienation from the world; also recall how Jean-Paul Sartre philosophized extensively about the alienation of human experience (being-for-itself) from objects and nature (being-in-itself). Alan Robbe-Grillet was much influenced by both Camus and Sartre.
Alienation From One’s Own Body
“Franck’s face as well as his whole body are virtually petrified.” A . . . is “Petrified by her own gaze.” Also, reference is made to the stiff movements of both A . . . and Franck, movements in sharp contrast to one of the Negros described as having a loose, quick gait. Sidebar: In Robbe-Grillet’s novel “The Erasers,” the main character, Wallas, is the one with the loose, quick gait and the people in the novel’s city are the ones that are stiff or flabby.
Novel Within a Novel
Both main characters are reading, reflecting and sharing their thoughts on an African novel that has many parallels with their own lives in the tropics. For me, this was a most fascinating part of this novella. At one point we read about Franck’s (and also the narrator’s) reaction to A . . . ‘s discussing various other possibilities the plot of this African novel could have taken: “Then Franck sweeps away in a single gesture all the suppositions they had just constructed together. It’s no use making up contrary possibilities, since things are the way they are, reality stays the same.” How about that; on the topic of things, the narrator (or possibly Franck) echoes Robbe-Grillet’s own disinclination to use simile and metaphor. And, by the way, not only are there nearly zero similes or metaphors in this novella, the sentences tend to be short and staccato.
“The sentences become shorter and limit themselves for the most part, to repeating fragments of those spoken during their last two days, or even before.” Does this quote refer to the spoken sentences of the main characters or to the written sentences of the novella, or both? One more fascinating aspect we encounter – is the narrator really all that objective or is the narrator an integral part of the life of either or both of the main characters? The more I contemplate the possibilities at every turn in this little new novel, the more admiration I have for its author.
*Special thanks to Goodreads friend Ian for suggesting we both read and write separate reviews for this Robbe-Grillet novella.
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Read information about the authorAlain Robbe-Grillet was a French writer and filmmaker. He was along with Nathalie Sarraute, Michel Butor and Claude Simon one of the figures most associated with the trend of the Nouveau Roman. Alain Robbe-Grillet was elected a member of the Académie française on March 25, 2004, succeeding Maurice Rheims at seat #32.
He was married to Catherine Robbe-Grillet (née Rstakian) .
Alain Robbe-Grillet was born in Brest (Finistère, France) into a family of engineers and scientists. He was trained as an agricultural engineer. In the years 1943-44 Robbe-Grillet participated in service du travail obligatoire in Nuremberg where he worked as a machinist. The initial few months were seen by Robbe-Grillet as something of a holiday, since in between the very rudimentary training he was given to operate the machinery he had free time to go to the theatre and the opera. In 1945, Robbe-Grillet completed his diploma at the National Institute of Agronomy. Later, his work as an agronomist took him to Martinique, French Guinea,Guadeloupe and Morocco.
His first novel The Erasers (Les Gommes) was published in 1953, after which he dedicated himself full-time to his new occupation. His early work was praised by eminent critics such as Roland Barthes and Maurice Blanchot. Around the time of his second novel he became a literary advisor for Les Editions de Minuit and occupied this position from 1955 until 1985. After publishing four novels, in 1961 he worked with Alain Renais, writing the script for Last Year at Marienbad (L'Année Dernière à Marienbad), and subsequently wrote and directed his own films. In 1963, Robbe-Grillet published For a New Novel (Pour un Nouveau Roman), a collection of previous published theoretical writings concerning the novel. From 1966 to 1968 he was a member of the High Committee for the Defense and Expansion of French (Haut comité pour la défense et l´expansion de la langue française). In addition Robbe-Grillet also led the Centre for Sociology of Literature (Centre de sociologie de la littérature) at the university of Bruxelles from 1980 to 1988. From 1971 to 1995 Robbe-Grillet was a professor at New York University, lecturing on his own novels.
In 2004 Robbe-Grillet was elected to the Académie française, but was never actually formally received by the Académie because of disputes regarding the Académie's reception procedures. Robbe-Grillet both refused to prepare and submit a welcome speech in advance, preferring to improvise his speech, as well as refusing to purchase and wear the Académie's famous green tails (habit vert) and sabre, which he considered as out-dated.
He died in Caen after succumbing to heart problems
His writing style has been described as "realist" or "phenomenological" (in the Heideggerian sense) or "a theory of pure surface." Methodical, geometric, and often repetitive descriptions of objects replace the psychology and interiority of the character. Instead, one slowly pieces together the story and the emotional experience of jealousy in the repetition of descriptions, the attention to odd details, and the breaks in repetitions. Ironically, this method resembles the experience of psychoanalysis in which the deeper unconscious meanings are contained in the flow and disruptions of free associations. Timelines and plots are fractured and the resulting novel resembles the literary equivalent of a cubist painting. Yet his work is ultimately characterised by its ability to mean many things to many different people.
Robbe-Grillet wrote his first novel A Regicide (Un Régicide) in 1949, but it was rejected by Gallimard, a major French publishing house, and only later published with 'minor corrections' by his life-long publisher Les Editions de Minuit in 1978. His fi
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