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Archive for February 5th, 2007

Reading Jealousy (3)

Dr Zen wrote to me:

It is about only one thing. What is real? How does a writer describe what is real?

If Robbe-Grillet had other themes, they were purely incidental to that.

At first I wondered if I had been speculating about possible themes. “You ask why the narrator does not talk about what he seems to know.” I asked him why he didn’t make the comment on the blog and he said he didn’t want to sound too critical. I encouraged him to comment publicly, knowing that this would inevitably influence my reading, in one or another. I’ve glanced at the introduction of the book, and I read an article this weekend. They influence my reading too.

Last night when I lay in bed and tried reading, I felt discouraged, mainly with myself. What did I really have to say about this book? What interest was any of it to anyone who’s read the book themselves? Even the questions I’m asking have been asked and answered many times before. Then, when I wrote, “It can’t all be about catching the metaphors and understanding the narrative technique and the commentary about modern fiction”, Dr Zen wrote back and said:

Can’t it? Perhaps now you recognise that my comment was well aimed?

It was, although I don’t think I’m talking about themes. At least as I understand the word. The more that I want is for the illusion that there are real people and real action to continue, at least somewhat. I want the second half of the book to take that illusion forward, at least somewhat. The questions R-G poses come in the guise of character and setting and plot, and I want the two parts of the book — the questions and the “story” — to continue hand-in-hand. I don’t mind not getting, and don’t expect to get, answers, but half-way through the book, I want to want to look for them nonetheless. (That’s not a typo.)

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Reading Jealousy (2)

Yesterday I happened to look at somebody’s newspaper and I found a review of a new Greek edition of Jealousy. It touched on a lot of the things I wrote about in the first post. It’s occured to me I don’t have anything original to say about the book.

What’s more, two things struck me. One is that it’s the kind of book that could only be written once. How could someone write another book about someone who watches but is not seen?

The second thing is that if the book is largely about what can’t be known for sure, and what the narrator doesn’t (at least consciously) reveal to us, why should I keep reading? The book seems to be the demonstration of a point, and I feel that I’ve got it, more or less. What will be added to that point if I read the second half of the book?

Surely there must be some secret, perhaps some solution, buried deep in the details, some details that are part of the game of pretending that these characters are reveal, that I can add to the picture I’m forming. It can’t all be about catching the metaphors and understanding the narrative technique and the commentary about modern fiction.

When I revisit the scene with the centipede, what new details will be revealed, and will these details lead anywhere I haven’t been already?

* * * * *

Who’s the native who has twice been shown to be bending over the water, as if looking for something? Why’s he looking? Is he actually looking for something, although the narrative says it’s impossible to see anything in such water?

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