From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Alain Robbe-Grillet (August 18 1922 – February 18 2008), was a French writer and filmmaker; main exponent of the nouveau roman, best-known for his screenplay for the film Last Year at Marienbad, an extended meditation on the unreliable narrator. He was married to Catherine Robbe-Grillet. His frequent use of sadomasochist imagery caused him to be compared to that other French rebel, Marquis de Sade. His last novel is Un roman sentimental. A frequent translator of Grillet's novels was Christine Brooke-Rose. Plenty of biographical details can be found in his widow's 2004 private journals, published in 2004 as Jeune mariée: Journal, 1957-1962.
Born in Brest, Finistère, France into a family of engineers and scientists. He was trained as an agricultural engineer and finished his studies at the National Institute of Agronomy in 1944. Later, he worked as an agronomist in Martinique. Either at university or while in Martinique, he studied the diseases of banana trees. Alain Robbe-Grillet was elected a member of the Académie française on March 25, 2004.
Style and content
- "Mes fantasmes sado-érotiques, je n'en ai nullement honte, je les mets en scène: la vie fantasmatique est ce que l'être humain doit revendiquer le plus hautement". --Alain Robbe-Grillet
His writing has been described as "realist" or "phenomenological" (in the Heideggerian sense) or "a theory of pure surface." Methodical, geometric, and often repetitive descriptions of objects replace the psychology and interiority of the character. Instead one slowly pieces together the story and the emotional experience of jealousy in the repetition of descriptions, the attention to odd details, and the breaks in repetitions. Ironically, this method resembles the experience of psychoanalysis in which the deeper unconscious meanings are contained in the flow and disruptions of free associations. Timelines and plots are fractured and the resulting novel resembles the literary equivalent of a cubist painting.
Robbe-Grillet has also written screenplays, notably for Alain Resnais' 1961 film Last Year at Marienbad, a critical success considered to be one of the finest French films of the 1960s. It was followed by a number of films directed by Robbe-Grillet himself: Trans-Europe-Express (1966), L'homme qui ment (The Man who Lies) (1968), L'Eden et après (Eden and Afterwards) (1970), Glissements progressifs du plaisir (The Slow Slidings of Pleasure) (1974), Le jeu avec le feu (Playing with Fire) (1975), and La belle captive (The Beautiful Captive) (1986).
- Un régicide (1949)
- Les Gommes (1953)
- Le Voyeur (1955)
- La Jalousie (1957)
- Dans le labyrinthe (1959)
- La Maison de rendez-vous (1965)
- Projet pour une révolution à New-York (1970)
- Topologie d'une cité fantôme (1976)
- Souvenirs du Triangle d'Or (1978)
- Djinn (1981)
- La reprise (2001)
- Un roman sentimental (2007)
Short story collection
- Pour un Nouveau Roman (1963)
- Le temple aux miroirs (1977), with Irina Ionesco
- Le voyageur, essais et entretiens (2001)
- Le Miroir qui revient (1985)
- Angélique ou l'enchantement (1988)
- Les derniers jours de Corinthe (1994)
- L'Année dernière à Marienbad (1961)
- L'Immortelle (1963)
- Glissements progressifs du plaisir (1974)
- C'est Gradiva qui vous appelle (2002)
- Trans-Europ-Express (1966)
- L'Homme Qui Ment (1968)
- Eden and Afterwards (1970)
- La Belle captive (1983)
- The Blue Villa (1995), also known as Un bruit qui rend fou
- C'est Gradiva qui vous appelle (2006)
- Immoral Tales: European Sex and Horror Movies 1956-1984 (1994) by Cathal Tohill and Pete Tombs dedicates a chapter to his films.
- The Erotic Dream Machine: Interviews with Alain Robbe-Grillet on His Films (1995) by Anthony N Fragola, Alain Robbe-Grillet and Roch Charles Smith