Alain Robbe-Grillet

Ivor Griffiths, Poet, Novelist & Short Story Writer

:: Poet Home :: Poetry :: Short Stories :: Contact ::
French literature
By category
French literary history

16th century - 17th century
18th century -19th century
20th century - Contemporary

French Writers

Chronological list
Writers by category
Novelists - Playwrights
Poets - Essayists
Short story writers

France Portal
Literature Portal
This box: view  talk  edit

Alain Robbe-Grillet (French IPA: [a'lɛ̃ ʁɔb gʁi'je]) (born August 18, 1922) is a French writer and filmmaker, born in Brest, Finistère, France into a family of engineers and scientists. He was trained as an agricultural engineer. In 1944 the National Institute of Agronomy awarded him a diploma. Later, he worked as an agronomist in Martinique. Either at university or while in Martinique, he studied the diseases of banana trees. Husband of Catherine Robbe-Grillet (née Rstakian).

He is, with Nathalie Sarraute, Michel Butor and Claude Simon, one of the figures most associated with the trend of the nouveau roman. Along with Maurice Blanchot and other French writers he is sometimes referred to as "French Structuralists" due to the critiques of their works by the famous structuralist Roland Barthes. Alain Robbe-Grillet was elected a member of the Académie française on March 25, 2004, succeeding Maurice Rheims at seat #32.

His first novel, A Regicide, was written in the early 1950s but only published in 1978. His first published novel was The Erasers, in 1953. It resembles a detective novel, but contains within it a deeper structure based on the story of Oedipus. The detective is seeking the assassin in a murder that has not yet occurred, only to discover that it is his destiny to become that assassin.

His next and most acclaimed novel is The Voyeur, first published in French in 1955 and translated into English in 1958 by Richard Howard. 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.

Next, he wrote Jealousy, set on a banana plantation. Written in the first person and in non-linear sequence, it tells the story of a husband's suspicion that his wife (referred to only as "A...") is having an affair with his neighbour, Franck. Although the narration comes from his perspective alone, the husband never uses first-person pronouns. He recounts events in which he is present as though he were not; his presence there is merely inferred, e.g. by the number of place settings at the dinner table or deck chairs on the verandah. He also describes images that can be read as either fantasy or reality, especially in regard to the affair and to the lovers' deaths. The French title La Jalousie means both "jealousy" and "window blind", or "shutter", and it is with the husband's eyes, through the jalousie, that we see the wife's lover.

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).


  • 1 Bibliography
    • 1.1 Novels
    • 1.2 Short story collection
    • 1.3 Essays
    • 1.4 "Romanesques"
    • 1.5 "Cine-novels"
  • 2 Filmography
  • 3 See also
  • 4 External links
  • 5 Further reading



  • 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)

Short story collection

  • Instantanés (1962)


  • Pour un Nouveau Roman (1963)
  • 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), starring: Daniel Mesguich, Gabrielle Lazure, Cyrielle Claire, Daniel Emilfork, Roland Dubillard, François Chaumette
  • The Blue Villa (1994), starring: Fred Ward, Arielle Dombasle
  • C'est Gradiva qui vous appelle (2006), starring: James Wilby, Arielle Dombasle, Dany Verissimo

See also

  • Metafiction
  • (French) L'Académie française
  • Interview at
  • Further reading

    • Immoral Tales: European Sex & 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 (2006) by Anthony N Fragola, Alain Robbe-Grillet and Roch Charles Smith
    Preceded by
    Maurice Rheims
    Seat 32
    Académie française
    Succeeded by
    This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from a Wikipedia article. To access the original click here.
    Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document
    under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
    or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation;
    with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts.
    A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU
    Free Documentation License".