Nouveau Roman Project

First of all, what the hell is the nouveau roman? – A question I shall approach by the Josipovici method of re-defining the nouveau roman to be what I want it to be, and then telling everyone else they’re wrong. So my definition of the nouveau roman is, that it must be either:

  1. A French novel written post-1950, commonly understood to be a nouveau roman.
  2. A French novel written post-1950, commonly misunderstood to be a nouveau roman, or which could be argued as such.
  3. A precursor of either 1) or 2)
  4. Anything French, post-1950, which has been translated by either a) Dalkey Archive, or b) John Calder
  5. Julio Cortázar

Right, now we’ve got our definition straight, here’s what I’m reading:

  • Jealousy, by Alain Robbe-Grillet (John Calder)
  • The Flanders Road, by Claude Simon (John Calder) and one of either Conducting Bodies (John Calder) or Triptych (John Calder)
  • The Mise-en-Scène, by Claude Ollier (Dalkey Archive)
  • The Planetarium, by Nathalie Sarraute (John Calder), and one of either or both of Vous les Entendez? (Gallimard) and Disent les Imbéciles (Gallimard)
  • Moderato Cantabile, by Marguerite Duras (Les Éditions de Minuit)
  • The Hermit, by Eugène Ionesco (John Calder)
  • Zazie dans le Métro, by Raymond Queneau (Penguin Modern Classics)
  • Cronus’ Children, by Yves Navarre (John Calder)
  • Life, A User’s Manual, by Georges Perec (Harvill)
  • Street Girl, by Muriel Cerf (John Calder)
  • Pélagie-la-charrette, by Antonine Maillet (Doubleday)
  • Locus Solus, by Raymond Roussel (Kindle Edition – French (and free!))
  • Paris Peasant, by Louis Aragon (Picador)
  • Some stuff by Jean Cocteau which I can’t currently find
  • Blow-Up and Other Stories, by Julio Cortázar (Pantheon), and possibly also Hopscotch (Rayuela)
  • French Fiction Revisited, by Leon S Roudiez (Dalkey Archive) – a non-fiction survey
  • Oh, and maybe some Beckett, eh? – Perhaps Molloy.
  • An odd OuLiPo book I bought last year for 99p whose name and author I’ve forgotten. (Oh yeah, the author was Jacques Jouet).
  • Djinn, by Alain Robbe-Grillet (John Calder)
  • In the Labyrinth, by Alain Robbe-Grillet (John Calder)
  • Impressions of Africa, by Raymond Roussel (Oneworld Classics)
  • Plays vol.2, by Eugene Ionesco (John Calder)
  • The Girl Beneath the Lion, by André Pierre de Mandiargues (John Calder)
  • Tropisms / The Age of Suspicion, by Nathalie Sarraute (John Calder)
  • In Transit, by Brigid Brophy (Dalkey Archive)
  • The Pier, by Rayner Heppenstall (Allison & Busby) *Gave up*

3 thoughts on “Nouveau Roman Project

  1. John Calder is a busy man!

    The nouveau roman was a fad in Portugal in the early 1960s; a few young writers saw Robbe-Grillet et al as a way out of the neo-realist (our name for social realist) fiction that had dominated Portuguese letters since the 1930s. They wrote about the French, theorized, interviewed, translated, and even plagiarized them. A pair of writers, when they got their hands in a newspaper’s literary supplement, even turned it into the nouveau roman HQ in Portugal: a week didn’t go by without them defending the NR, explaining it, making lists of its proponents, or praising Portuguese novelists who had jumped into the bandwagon. Their lack of partiality was so honestly shameless!

    To the best of my knowledge, the NR did not produce a single good Portuguese novel.

    I can tell you lots of stories about the ill-fated history of the Portuguese nouveau roman, if you wish.

  2. To be fair, John Calder was merely the publisher of these works. He was very into publishing experimental literature, especially Beckett, and I imagine a lot of nouveau Roman were translated into English on the basis of his enthusiasm.

    I think certain nouveau Roman writers (Robbe-Grillet, Sarraute and especially Claude Simon) were very good writers (stylists) on their own account; and in some way I feel the problem of the nouveau Roman they set themselves was something that in each work they struggled to surmount; maybe they’d have written better novels not by adopting this approach – I’m not sure it helped.

    Still a lot of these I see I never got around to.

    Yes, it would be good to hear about the Portuguese failures in nouveau Roman. Perhaps it could be worked into the subject of a novel (presumably written in the style of a nouveau Roman).

    Glad to see you’re blogging again. No one else writes about Alexander Theroux.

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