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Alain Robbe-Grillet (b. 1922)
Préface à une vie d'écrivain (2003)
In 2003, France Culture conducted a series of interviews with Alain Robbe Grillet. Through 25 sequences, Robbe Grillet sheds light on his literary past.
His account is filled with anecdotes, childhood memories, adult experiences, fantasies, historical references and above all, encounters with those from the literary scene and figures from the cinema who inspired and influenced him both positively and negatively, such as Franz Kafka, Jean-Paul Sartre, George Bataille, Roland Barthes and Alain Resnais.
The interviews are punctuated by a few readings and even more interestingly, by long excerpts from novels of Gustave Flaubert, Andre Breton, and others, which he admirably recites almost flawlessly.
We hear him comment at times with humor on the works and remarks of other writers and critics - both admirers and detractors. He responds extensively to the critics who disapproved of him not writing like Honoré de Balzac did. To this, he retorts that as is the case with science, there is more than one way to write and interpret literature. In fact, Alain Robbe Grillet worked as a biologist during the 1940s, studying the illnesses of the Banana tree - a field he left to pursue writing.
His relationship to the public and critics is described at length, going as far back as the time when "Les Gommes" was published and was welcomed with complete silence, or when Emile Henriot wrote in the newspaper "Le Monde" that his work "was more of the essence of the insane asylum or the criminal court than of the literary prize", when referring to his book "Voyeur" after it received the Critics Prize. All of this stands in stark contrast to his later election as a member of the Académie Française in 2004.
Robbe Grillet resolves many misunderstandings that have surrounded his work or the Nouveau Roman, notably on the common misperception that the authors of this literary movement wrote about nothing.
Alain Robbe Grillet - “teacher of himself and his friends” (this is the way he describes his work in New York: "En Amérique, où j´étais professeur de moi même mais aussi de mes amis, Sartre, Camus, Duras, Claude Simon…") - offers an insightful account of the relationship of the author to the process of writing, and of the scriptwriter to his movies.
This book proves to be an invaluable key for interpreting the literary landscape in general and the Nouveau Roman and Alain Robbe Grillet in particular. It is especially invaluable, as it prompts us to think outside the box.
Read by the Author, 1957. (See translated text.)
From Aspen No. 5+6
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