Marguerite Duras

Alma continue their attractive re-packaging of the Calder backlist1 with The Garden Square, one of the lesser-known gems by Marguerite Duras, best known for The Lover (l'Amant) and the screenplay for Alain Resnais's Hiroshima Mon Amour. Although grouped with the 1950s French nouveau roman, her work eschews the formal innovation of Butor or Alain Robbe-Grillet. … Continue reading Marguerite Duras

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The mapping problem

I've written about maps in fantasy fiction before. For every reader who enthuses and pores over a double-page spread of spidery waterways and jagged mountain ranges, there's another whose heart sinks at the OCD-level of detail, the neatness of it, the aura of omniscience. I'm currently reading "Passing Time" (l'emploi du temps) by Michel Butor. … Continue reading The mapping problem

Review: “Changing Track” by Michel Butor

Changing Track, described on the blurb as "at once experimental and engrossing", was originally published by Calder Books in 1958 as "Second Thoughts" and has long been out of print in English. Alma Books have relaunched the Calder imprint1 with this, and other works from the Calder backlist are to follow later in the year. … Continue reading Review: “Changing Track” by Michel Butor

Review: “The Unmapped Country” by Ann Quin

It's a good start to the year for fans of mid-century experimental fiction. Alma have reprinted Michel Butor's Changing Track, and now And Other Stories have gathered these short pieces and fragments by Ann Quin. Quin, who drowned off Brighton beach in 1973 aged 36, has long been a cult figure. She was one of … Continue reading Review: “The Unmapped Country” by Ann Quin

Alain Robbe-Grillet: early fiction (part 3)

In this final part of my study of Robbe-Grillet's early fiction, with today being what would have been his 95th birthday, I'll look at the novel which, for me, sees him reach the high-point of the nouveau-roman; and a series of experimental (in the true sense of the word) short fictions. By the time of … Continue reading Alain Robbe-Grillet: early fiction (part 3)

Alain Robbe-Grillet: early fiction (part 2)

In Part 1 of this essay I looked at Robbe-Grillet's first two novels (A Regicide and The Erasers), in which it is easy to trace the development of the techniques and motifs that he would refine and re-use throughout his career. The first novels are in many ways conventional, and this is because the techniques … Continue reading Alain Robbe-Grillet: early fiction (part 2)

Alain Robbe-Grillet: Early fiction (part 1)

If the nouveau roman (New Novel) had a driving force, it was Alain Robbe-Grillet (1922-2008). The nouveau roman was an influential - if rarely best-selling - literary movement in post-war France. A number of writers, generally but not exclusively connected to the publishers Editions de Minuit, sought appropriate ways to take fiction forward in a … Continue reading Alain Robbe-Grillet: Early fiction (part 1)

None the wiser: Claude Ollier’s “The Mise-en-Scene” (1958)

A confession: I'd never heard of Claude Ollier until a few weeks ago. Although I've read numerous mid-century French nouveau romanistes (Robbe-Grillet, Duras, Sarraute, Simon, Butor, Pinget) I had never come across any reference to Ollier, probably because his work had not been published by John Calder, and the few English translations of his work … Continue reading None the wiser: Claude Ollier’s “The Mise-en-Scene” (1958)

Calder Books – a celebration

From the briefest of biographical details, John Calder would seem an unlikely revolutionary. Scion of a brewing dynasty, he once stood for election as the Liberal candidate for his home seat of Kinross. But at 90 this Scottish-Canadian publisher is still active, and still fighting against the forces of cultural reaction. Few publishers can claim … Continue reading Calder Books – a celebration