[Littérature] Double tribute for Alain Robbe

As we celebrate Alain Robbe-Grillet’s centenary this year, Benoît Peeters is releasing two books about him: Robbe-Grillet. The Adventure of the New Novel and Reinventing the novel.

Writer and critic, scriptwriter of comic strips and soon to be invited to the Collège de France, where he has been elected to the chair of artistic creation, Benoît Peeters immediately specifies: “It is both a biography, the portrait of a man whom I knew, admired and whose archives I explored, and through him, a great literary adventure. Perhaps the last great French literary adventure. There was surrealism after the First World War, there was the New Roman after the Second”.

And because, according to Peeters, this man – whose birth centenary we celebrated this year – appears to be the pivot of this adventure, he devotes two books to him: a biography (Robbe-Grillet. The Adventure of the New Novel) and a collection of unpublished interviews (Reinvent the novel). We read, at the opening of the biography: “He disturbed, fascinated, exasperated. For years he generated more contemptuous or hateful articles than any of his contemporaries. And he was happy about it. “I had good enemies. I mean bitter enemies, ”acknowledged Alain Robbe-Grillet when asked about his persistent celebrity, in the absence of any great literary prize”.

Ten novels and ten films

Born on August 18, 1922 in Saint-Pierre-Quilbignon (a village which joined the city of Brest in 1945), after having been an agricultural engineer, he devoted himself to literature, writing a first text in 1949, A regicide (1978), arrives in bookstores with a first novel, The erasers (1953). After The Voyeur (1955) is Jealousy (1957), “the most beautiful romance novel since Proust”, according to Vladimir Nabokov. Over the years, there will be seven more novels: In the maze (1959), The Meeting House (1965), Project for a Revolution in New York (1970), Topology of a ghost town (1976), Memories of the Golden Triangle (1978), Djinn (1981) and finally Recovery (2001).

I like annoying people, but I don’t like being pissed off!

For the cinema, he will make ten films whose cult Gradual shifts of pleasure (1974), will write five screenplays including that of Last year in Marienbad (1961, Golden Lion in Venice) and will even act twice for Alain Resnais and Raul Ruiz. Elected in 2004 to the French Academy where he never sat, he died of a heart attack in February 2003. In the books of the history of French literature, he is held, with Nathalie Sarraute, for the chief leader of the New Roman.

An endearing character

In forty-five chapters of unequal length, Benoît Peeters tells Alain Robbe-Grillet and also the adventure of the New Roman. In Memories of the Golden Triangle, Robbe-Grillet wondered: “What did I say? What did I do?”. Like an echo, Peeters answers him. By drawing the portrait of a writer and filmmaker quite far from what he wanted to let appear, in the dryness of this New Roman, so decried, so mocked, so despised. So in Robbe-Grillet. The Adventure of New Roman, appears an almost endearing character, who was “the tormented child, the worker, the agricultural engineer, the chiseler of sentences, the secret sentimentalist, the daring publisher, the brilliant pedagogue and the tireless traveler”.

We will add the spiritual erotomaniac, Catherine’s husband since 1951 – also a writer who wrote BDSM novels (rumor has it that these books were in fact written by Robbe-Grillet himself). Curated by publisher Jérôme Lindon and Alain Robbe-Grillet, the Nouveau Roman has highlighted the works of Nathalie Sarraute, Marguerite Duras, Claude Simon, Michel Butor, Bernard Pinget and Claude Ollier. “It was a particularly successful operation,” writes Benoît Peeters. “An association of criminals”, often said Nathalie Sarraute. A literary adventure led by Alain Robbe-Grillet who took pleasure in repeating: “I like to annoy people, but I don’t like being bored!”.

Benoit Peeters, Robbe Grillet. The Adventure of the New Novel / Reinventing the Novel. Fields / Flammarion

[Littérature] Double tribute for Alain Robbe-Grillet