A woman and her male friend sit on her porch, having drinks and discussing a novel. Her suspicious husband? Let's hear it for French puns! Construction workers repair a decaying bridge on the edge of the property. Woman writes a letter. Friend comes over for dinner.

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For Robbe-Grillet readers had become lazy and were used to being spoon fed information by writers who felt that everything had to be explained, that readers had to not only have the plots and characters motives explained to them but should also be told how they should feel about those plots and character motives.

The lacquered table suddenly turns deep blue, like her dress, white floor and the sides of the bathtub. The whole room is plunged into darkness. Their small size, their relative distance, their speed-all the greater the closer they fly to the source of light-keep the shape of their bodies and wings from being recognized.

They are merely articles in motion, describing more or less flattened ellipses in horizontal planes or at slight angles, cutting the elongated cylinder of the lamp at various levels. Although neither the arm nor the head seems disturbed by the slightest movement, the hair, more sensitive, captures the oscillations of the wrist, amplifies them and translates them into unexpected eddies, which awaken reddish highlights in its moving mass.

The head must be shaken with tiny movements, imperceptible in themselves, but amplified by the mass of hair, creating gleaming, quickly vanishing eddies whose sudden intensity is reawakened in unlooked-for convulsions a little lower…lower still…and a little spasm much lower. Has the narrator caught her in an act of onanism?

Or does his jealousy colour even her most innocuous of actions? In his attempt to describe everything as objectively as possible he imbues every scene with a purely subjective, symbolic meaning. Is it a love letter?

What does the man who the narrator notes is bending down gazing into the shallow perhaps muddy water symbolize? Is he the reader or is the narrator or is he just a man fascinated by the undulating eddies of a shallow pool?

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books, yo.

The term virtual reality conjures up images of people strapping on funny headsets and being exposed to simulated environments; its goal is to make the participant feel as though he or she has stepped into another world, one that feels real or is at least able to recreate some of the conditions of a real experience. This is very much what reading Jealousy is like. Of course, just like with virtual reality one must approach Jealousy with an absence of cynicism, but if you do this is an almost mind-warping experience. Experience is the correct word, because this is not engaging as a story; the most one needs to know about the plot is summed up in the title. A jealous husband suspects his wife of infidelity.


‘Jealousy’ by Robbe-Grillet

The French title: "la jalousie" is a play on words that can be translated as "jealousy", but also as "the jalousie window ". The jealous husband in the novel spies on his wife through the Venetian blind -like slats of the jalousie windows of their home. La Jalousie is one of critics' and literary theorists' main examples of Robbe-Grillet's demonstrations of his concept of the nouveau roman , for which he later explicitly advocated in his Pour un nouveau roman For a New Novel. Robbe-Grillet argued that the novel was constructed along the lines of an "absent" third-person narrator. In that account of the novel the narrator, a jealous husband, silently observes the interactions of his wife referred to only as "A


Published in , as the nouveau roman was rising on the Parisian literary scene, Alain Robbe-Grillet's novel La Jalousie [ Jealousy ] produced in many of its first readers a reaction of puzzlement and consternation. One critic from the newspaper Le Monde believed that "he had surely received a copy whose pages had been mixed up by the printer, that it was a jumbled mess" qtd. La Jalousie , in many ways, can be said to illustrate Robbe-Grillet's modernist, if not postmodernist, bias against classical realism and narration, 1 his view that "tell[ing] a story has become strictly impossible [ raconter est devenu proprement impossible ]" Making these remarks in an article aptly entitled "On Several Obsolete Notions," published the same year as La Jalousie and republished a few years later in his influential manifesto For a New Novel , Robbe-Grillet made clear his intention to renovate both the novel form and the critical reading practices used in approaching the genre as a whole. Few readers answered Robbe-Grillet's call for a radicalization of the novel, however, and the question of how one can or should read La Jalousie 's unruliness, its intentional challenge to hermeneutical containment and cognitive mastery, still remains open. The question of how to respond to La Jalousie —a question that the novel itself allegorizes or stages in several key scenes—is not just an intellectual or epistemological challenge but also an ethical one.



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