Robbe-Grillet, pioneer of 'new' novel, dead at 85
French writer who pioneered the so-called "new novel" genre in the 1950s, died Monday at the age of 85
PARIS, Feb 19, 2008 - Alain Robbe-Grillet, the French writer who
pioneered the so-called "new novel" genre in the 1950s, died Monday at the age
of 85, the Academie Francaise (French Academy) said.
He had been admitted to hospital in the Normandy city of Caen over the
weekend after suffering a heart ailment.
In a series of essays published in 1963 Robbe-Grillet developed the theory
of the "new novel" which sought to overturn conventional ideas on
His theory was that traditional notions such as plot and character should
be subordinated to impersonal descriptions of physical things.
He wrote several best-selling books, including "Les Gommes" (The Erasers),
"Le Voyeur" (The Voyeur) and "La Jalousie" (Jealousy).
He was also associated with the "New Wave" of French film-making, writing
the screenplay for Alain Resnais' "L'Annee Derniere a Marienbad" (Last Year at
Marienbad) and making several films under his own name.
Robbe-Grillet was born in Brest, in Brittany, in 1922 and after World War
II worked as a statistician and then as an agronomist in the Caribbean island
His first published book -- "Les Gommes" -- established him as a leader of
a new generation of writers that also included Samuel Beckett, Claude Simon
and Natalie Serrault.
Robbe-Grillet said the term 'new novel' was aimed at "all those seeking new
forms for the novel ... and all those who have determined to invent the novel,
in other words to invent man."
For more than 20 years from 1970 he taught at the University of New York.
In all he wrote more than 10 novels, with the last -- "Un Roman
Sentimental" (A sentimental novel) -- appearing in 2007.
Described by him as a "fairy-tale for adults", this book created a minor
scandal in France because of its depictions of incest and paedophilia. He said
it was not a serious part of his "oeuvre".
In 2004 Robbe-Grillet was elected to the Academie Francaise -- the elite
40-member body that acts as guardian of the French language -- but he never
took his seat.
Renowned for his love of provocation, he said it was because he refused to
wear the Academie's elaborate green uniform.
He is survived by his wife Catherine Robbe-Grillet, who is also a novelist.