Conducting Bodies, by Claude Simon

Yes, this is the kind of thing I have in mind when I think of the nouveau roman. Let me try to describe Simon’s novel:

  • Imagine twenty or so scenes which may or may not have a connection to one another.
  • Imagine these scenes being described in minute detail, in slow-motion as it were.
  • Imagine these scenes aren’t ordered one after the other in the usual manner, but are interleaved, so that we are constantly switching between one scene and another without any particular indication of where one begins and another ends.
  • Imagine this is all told in one single 191-page paragraph.

The plot, eh?: a man is being examined in a doctor’s surgery; he is standing outside in the street; he is walking through a jungle; he is sitting on an aeroplane; he is at an international conference on literature and its relation with social upheaval; he is having sex with a woman; he is engaged in many other things. Though I wouldn’t suggest it’s necessarily the same man doing all these things.

Certainly it contains what I’d consider the essential element of a nouveau roman: I’ve not read much like it before; – and it doesn’t in fact take you long to get the hang of it. There’s some interest trick I haven’t bothered to analyse which makes you (me, at least) understand fairly easily the shifts in scene – some kind of clever referencing, no doubt; I’ve a vague idea it’s there even while I’m reading, though I do my best not to look into it for fear I might be becoming a critic.

The other week, in relation to Philip Roth, I was wondering whether it’s possible to have imagistic cuts in novels (like films): well, there’s about 500 of them in this novel, and on the whole they work quite well.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s