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Archive for March 21st, 2007

Reading Jealousy (5)

My problem with Jealousy was mainly one of motivation: my reasons for picking the book up again once I’d put it down. Generally speaking, I felt as if Robbe-Grillet had put his cards down on the table too soon. I had heard enough about the book to know it was one where nothing “happened” in the usual sense of the word. The obsessive quality of the narrator and narrative, the repeated examination of the same details, albeit with an increasingly sharpened focus, and the fact that I believed (had read and heard) that the “truth” would never be revealed, that there would not be a typical (or any) resolution, all created a sense of stasis. The book wasn’t going anywhere. Or rather, the only movement was the obsessive circling around the same details. Apart from the narrative, what interested me was Robbe-Grillet’s technique — his narrator’s evasiveness and apathy. But here especially I felt, or believed, that Robbe-Grillet had revealed things too early, that there was no reason to read on.

I was quite willing to admit that I was misreading the book, that I was expecting from it something it was not meant to give me, but I could not face reading a book that (I believed) had stopped developing or progressing. I was also willing to admit that I was wrong about everything, but I simply could not stay interested enough to find out. The one compromise I could not force myself to make was to give up my expectation that a book progress or develop in some linear fashion. In other words, the second chapter should do something that the first chapter didn’t do.

I mentioned the problem to Jamie, who read the book when he was studying French Literature in university and loved it. He urged me to finished it, and I said I’d try. But in the course of our conversation it occurred to me that there was, in fact, something in the book that I could concentrate on, something that moved forward and was developed: the state of the narrator himself, his mental or emotional health, and the possibility that his apathy and obsessiveness might wear him down or break him in the end.

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