From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Alain Robbe-Grillet's most acclaimed novel is The Voyeur, first published in French in 1955 and translated into English in 1958 by Richard Howard. With this novel Grillet won the French Critics Prize. It is the story of the world seen through the eyes of a sadistic killer.
Robbe-Grillet relates the story of Matthias, a travelling watch salesman who returns to the island of his youth with a desperate objective. As with many of his novels, The Voyeur revolves around the dubious details of a murder: throughout the novel, Matthias unfolds a newspaper clipping about the details of a young girl's murder and the discovery of her body among the seaside rocks. Matthias' relationship with the dead girl is obliquely revealed in the course of his psychological disintegration, which is rendered with objective precision in the style for which Robbe-Grillet is most famous. The narration contains little dialogue, no description of characters' interior thoughts or emotions, and an ambiguous timeline of events. Indeed, the novel's opening line is indicative of the novel's tenor: "It was as if no one had heard." The Voyeur was awarded the Prix des Critiques.