19 February 2008

Alain Robbe-Grillet 1922-2008


Ian Keenan said...

I watched MacAdams’ documentary on Kerouac by chance the day before seeing the NY Public Library’s show on Kerouac, which is recommended (there til March 16) to fans of his in the area. Kerouac’s religious paintings and his study of world religion made me think of how Robbe-Grillet scoffed at the notion of the inspired artistic genius as a theological proposition, which can be seen as a de Tocquevillian contrast between the two cultural agents of the same era. Clark Coolidge’s reflections on first encountering Kerouac amplify that contrast: Kerouac was the anti-Sartre, affirmation, optimism, impulsiveness not curtailed by analysis.

Robbe-Grillet’s theoretical essays, in keeping with this contrast, are a series of negations, rabbit trails, gratuitous patricides, which in the end only play to his own strengths and exist for the function of his own psychology. The negation of the ‘outdated concepts’ are carried out by a agronomist and statistician with a tenuous grasp of literary history and philosophy convinced of his superiority, seizing the tradition of provocation. I watched his incompetent film La Belle Captive a few weeks ago, which revealed his debt to Surrealism after his denials of same in his early essays.

As he began to realize in his sixties, his work was intensely personal and had unique value and capacity for inspiration only when wrested from his dogmatics. The fixation on escaping the tragic flaws inherent in the human condition (The Erasers) is tragedy in its purest form, and Robbe-Grillet’s games, dodges, opacity, and irrelevant digressions are provide illustrations of this pure escape, a renunciation coupled with resigned deference to the natural world (Jealousy). His stated contempt for iconic characters can be seen as a confessional impulse: no Don Quixotes or Candides are going to mediate between the reader and piquant details of his explication of self. Last Year at Marienbad can also be seen as a personal work which, like his other works, acutely reveals the writer behind its persistent attempts at distraction and trivialization.

Anonymous said...