Monday, February 18, 2008

Saul Bellow on Robbe-Grillet

Alain Robbe-Grillet has died at the age of 85.

I want to like the nouveau roman more than I actually do. It should be exciting, different, stimulating, but too often it feels stilted and, frankly, dull.

Saul Bellow, in his Nobel acceptance speech, quoted Robbe-Grillet:

The novel of characters belongs entirely in the past... Individuals have been wiped out… The exclusive cult of the 'human' has given way to a larger consciousness, one that is less anthropocentric.

Bellow countered: "Can it be that human beings are at a dead end?" He rounded on the intellectual community – "another group of mummies" – which had "laid down the law":
It amuses me that these serious essayists should be allowed to sign the death notices of literary forms… We must not make bosses of our intellectuals.

Although he conceded that "there is no reason why a novelist should not drop 'character' if the strategy stimulates him," Bellow was clear on the importance of character in his work:

A "character" has his own logic. He goes his way, one goes with him; he has some perceptions, one perceives them with him. You do him justice, you don't grind your axe. I have no axe to grind, one way or the other.

No comments: