Alienation in the New Novel of France and Quebec: An Examination of the Works of Nathalie Sarraute, Michel Butor, Robbe-Grillet, Gerard Bessette, Jean Basile, and Rejean Ducharme

Description

173 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
$12.95
ISBN 0-919966-49-7

Publisher

Year

1985

Contributor

Reviewed by Neal Johnson

Neal Johnson was Associate Professor of Languages and Literatures at the University of Guelph, Ontario.

Review

The author is a recognized authority on the nouveau roman, having already published an Aide bibliographique pour l’étude du nouveau roman canadien-français (1976, University of Regina). In her most recent work she remarks quite rightly that most studies on the “new novel” have dealt with style and form rather than with subject matter, and she proceeds to demonstrate convincingly that these novels, far from being a mere exercise in style and narrative techniques, are an expression of modern thought. The protagonists of these works, outsiders and antiheroes, are engaged in a desperate search for self, for “authenticity”; alone in a godless universe, they feel an equally desperate need for communication. Their dilemma is not merely that of the six major novelists chosen for this study, but is that facing modern man — at least in the 1950s and ‘60s, when most of these novels were written. An analysis of the principal novels of this movement, and fruitful comparisons made between authors and countries, provide useful insights for the reader familiar with this literature. And the problem of alienation in a technical society “where the individual has become a mere number” is as acute today as it was a generation ago.

It would appear that this study began its career as a Ph.D. dissertation. This has advantages (in this case, for example, an excellent bibliography, scrupulously up-to-date and professionally presented), but also disadvantages. The text seems to be essentially that of the 1973 thesis, with a few examples of cumbersome thesis style, as well as a few references to violence in Quebec and to feelings there of guilt and inferiority which sound strange in 1986. As good as theses are, one often feels that given unlimited time and money the author could write an even better book. These days, however, professors have neither in abundance, and scholars working in this field will welcome a useful analysis of six authors’ contributions to the nouveau roman.

Citation

Harger-Grinling, Virginia A., “Alienation in the New Novel of France and Quebec: An Examination of the Works of Nathalie Sarraute, Michel Butor, Robbe-Grillet, Gerard Bessette, Jean Basile, and Rejean Ducharme,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 25, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/36070.