She had just moved her head back and was looking straight ahead of her down the table, toward the bare wall where a blackish spot marks the place where a centipede was squashed last week, at the beginning of the month, perhaps the month before, or later (p. 47).
“A centipede!” she says in a more restrained voice, in the silence that has just fallen.
Franck looks up again. Following the direction of A. . .’s motionless gaze, he turns his head to the other side, toward his right.
On the light colored paint of the partition opposite A . . ., a common Scutigera of average size (about as long as finger) has appeared, easily seen despite the dim light. It is not moving, for the moment, but the orientation of its body indicates a path which cuts across the panel diagonally: coming from the baseboard on the hallway side and heading toward the corner of the ceiling. The creature is easy to identify thanks to the development of its legs, especially on the posterior portion. On closer examination the swaying movement of the antennae at the other end can be discerned.
A . . . has not moved since her discovery: sitting very straight in her chair, her hands resting flat on the cloth on either side of her plate. Her eyes are wide, staring at the wall. Her mouth is not quite closed, and may be quivering imperceptibly.
It is not unusual to encounter different kinds of centipedes after dark in this already old wooden house. And this kind is not one of the largest; it is far from being one of the most venomous. A . . . does her best, but does not manage to look away, nor to smile at the joke about her aversion to centipedes.
Franck, who has said nothing, is looking at A . . . again. Then he stands up noiselessly, holding his napkin in his hand. He wads it into a ball and approaches the wall.
A . . . seems to be breathing a little faster, but this may be an illusion. Her left hand gradually closes over her knife. The delicate antennae accelerate their alternate swaying.
Suddenly the creature hunches its body and begins descending diagonally toward the ground as fast as its long legs can go, while the wadded napkin falls on it, faster still.
The hand with the tapering fingers has clenched around the knife handle; but the features of the face have lost none of their rigidity. Franck lifts the napkin away from the wall and with his foot continues to squash something on the tiles, against the baseboard.
About a yard higher, the paint is marked with a dark shape, a tiny arc twisted into a question mark, blurred on one side, in places surrounded by more tenuous signs, from which A . . . has still not taken her eyes (p. 64 – 65).
On the bare wall, the traces of the squashed centipede are still perfectly visible. Nothing has been done to clean off the stain, for fear of spoiling the handsome, dull finish, probably not washable (p. 78).
It is at this moment that she notices the Scutigera on the bare wall in front of her. In an even tone of voice, as if in order not to frighten the creature, she says:
Franck looks up again. Following the direction of A. . .’s motionless gaze, he turns his head to the other side.
The animal is motionless in the center of the panel, easily seen against the light colored paint, despite the dim light. Franck, who has said nothing, looks at A . . . again. Then he stands up noiselessly. A . . . moves no more than the centipede while Franck approaches the wall, his napkin wadded up in his hand.
The hand with tapering fingers has clenched into a fist on the white cloth.
Franck lifts the napkin away from the wall and with his foot continues to squash something on the tiles, against the base board. And he sits down in his place again, to the right of the lamp lit behind him, on the sideboard (p. 82).
From Alain Robbe-Grillet’s La Jalousie. . .
A friend sent me an email over the weekend in which he mentioned the death of Robbe-Grillet, one of the Great Men of Literature. . .he died 18 February 2008, and his passing must not have caused much of a ripple, for I recall seeing no mention of it by Media. . .perhaps buried in the back pages of the New York Times, or on the third or fourth page of news links on one of the internet news gathering sites?
Heath Ledger, whose great achievement was to play a *tortured* homosexual in a mediocre film, died and Media buzzed, as if someone notable had went to the grave. Of course, he was young, and he was found nude in bed, and there was the specter of a squalid demise, which leads to Media frenzy. Robbe-Grillet died an old man’s death at age 85, and his greatest accomplishments were decades ago. Still. . .it reflects on the adolescence of Western culture. . .
The obituaries of the renowned provide the culture an opportunity to stop and reflect. . .when a Giant dies, we comment on their contribution, what we accept and reject of them. . . and we speculate who will inherit the mantle. . .
That Robbe-Grillet’s death was greeted with relative indifference tells us that Literature itself is now culturally unimportant. . .
This is the YouTube Age. . .the Age of the Mediocre Narcissist. . .cretins explode firecrackers on their bellies, or hit each other in the head with hammers. . .girls in thongs stage pillow fights in front of tiny cameras. . .ninety second videos of human garbage polluting their own being.
That was then: the elegance and refinement of Eden. . .
This is now: x thousands of years later, Eden’s moronic offspring celebrate their own depravity. . .
Imagine God. . .just imagine God. . .humanity His crowning creation. . .He brings into existence a sublime life form. . .and now retarded humanity digs its index fingers into its nostrils and pulls out its boogers to eat on video. . .or farts are ignited with Bic lighters. . .
A Christian tells me Hell can’t be eternal torment. . .God wouldn’t do that, He would be too cold, too cruel. . .
If God watches YouTube, He’ll send this garbage to Hell, all right. . .
Humanity wastes His gift on this? Defiles His generosity on this vulgar exhibitionism? Why not burn the garbage?
The Creator should greet this garbage with a smile and a slap on the back and a well done, thou good and faithful servant?
If He does, I won’t complain. . .who I am to complain over God’s mercy?
But then, again. . .I remember when Gene Scott was near the end. . .a moment of clarity in his final hours, trying to right himself with His maker. . .weeping as he examined himself, he cried out that Jesus could send him to Hell, and he would not complain. . .
We should all know ourselves that well. . .
But anyways. . .Robbe-Grillet. . .dead. . .the father of the *nouveau roman*. . .the new novel. . .Robbe-Grillet believed the novel was withering under 19th century literary conventions. . .he believed the novel should be stripped of emotion and psychological analysis. . .the focus of the novel should be shifted from plot, action and character onto objects, the details of the world. . .a scientific observation of the surface, without any attempt to instill meaning. . .in the new novel, the reader must shake off his passivity and enter the text and determine for himself the meaning of the details and events described.
La Jalousie was Robbe-Grillet’s masterpiece. . .written in 1957, it features all the hallmarks of the noveau roman: nonlinear narrative, breaks in time and space, scenes repeated over and over again with slight variations such as in the famous *centipede* examples quoted above (and which, paradoxically, create psychological tension). The narrator never *appears*. . .never uses the personal pronoun *I*. . .no commentary on the events described are offered. . .the invisible narrator drags the reader into the void. . .
746 copies of La Jalousie were sold in its first year of publication. . .
It couldn’t be published today. . .
The Great Man wrote some of the most boring passages in the history of literature. In La Jalousie, which is set on a banana plantation in the West Indies, there are pages of tedious descriptions of rows of banana trees featuring paragraphs such as these:
In the second row, starting from the far left, there would be twenty-two trees (because of the alternate arrangement) in the case of a rectangular patch. There would also be twenty-two for a patch that was precisely trapezoidal, the reduction being scarcely noticeable at such a short distance from its base. And, in fact, there are twenty-two trees there.
But the third row too has only twenty-two trees, instead of twenty-three which the alternately-arranged rectangle would have. No additional difference is introduced, at this level, by the bulge in the lower edge. The same is true for the fourth row, which includes twenty-one boles, that is, one less than an even row of the imaginary rectangle (p. 51 – 52).
In this regard, one could view Robbe-Grillet as the Andy Kaufman of literature, deliberately provoking the reader, as Kaufman did when he stood on stage and read page afte page of The Great Gatsby to audience expecting *comedy*. . .Robbe-Grillet gave agronomy to readers expecting *literature*. . .
Can you imagine the illiterates of today trying to decipher Robbe-Grillet? These YouTube boobs who stare at ninety second video clips of two-legged dogs? These anti-linguists who electronically grunt text messages? We are one or two generations away from a return to cave painting. . .
As for Robbe-Grillet himself, unfortunately, he lived too long. At age 35 or 40, he was superior to the culture. . .yet there was always a tendency toward pornography in the Great Man. . .his most well-known novel, Le Voyeur, contains hints of pedophilia and implies a bent toward masochistic sluttiness on the part of thirteen-year-old girls. . .as the Great Man aged, and the culture became more and more pornographic, Robbe-Grillet gave increasingly open expressions to his own debased sexual fantasies. . .after scripting one of the great films of all-time, L'Année Dernière à Marienbad, Robbe-Grillet himself filmed a series of soft-core S&M films. . .then, just a few months ago, he released his last novel, Un Roman Sentimental. . .I do not believe it has been translated into English. . .it was described by the Guardian:
The recently published novel by Alain Robbe-Grillet - Un Roman Sentimental - is creating something of a stir, with calls from various sources for its actual ban. Publishers Fayard, aware of its potential to disturb, even went to the extent of issuing the book with pages uncut, sporting a sober, purely typographical cover, with each copy shrink-wrapped and featuring a warning sticker to the effect that "this is a fairy tale for adults and a fantasy that might well shock sensitive souls". Were Robbe-Grillet not a member of the respected Academie Francaise and best known for having invented the ascetic and stylised form of the nouveau roman, it is unlikely his novel could have been published at all even in these liberated times. But then, cinemagoers will recall the frequent nudity and sado-masochistic tropes present in many of the art films he has directed, including Trans-Europ-Express, La Belle Captive, Glissements Progressifs Du Désir and L'Éden et Après. Unlike the flesh on frequent display in the films of Peter Greenaway, Robbe-Grillet's movies never had the alibi of a painter's perspective and the bound, captive women he loved to display always evoked a disturbing sense of troubled eroticism and deliberate fetishism.
Un Roman Sentimental, however, is unlikely to be filmed. It's a venomous flower of a novel which defies convention and taste and takes a tradition invented by the Marquis de Sade, principally in 120 Days of Sodom (the Prix Sade jurors presciently awarded their prize to Robbe-Grillet in 2004 for the whole of his oeuvre), and its film adaptation by Pasolini in Salò. What constitutes pornography is very much in the eye of the beholder, but there is little doubt that this is an openly and joyfully pornographic book, in that it turns into an unbound celebration of deviancy at its most explicit and imaginative.
Gigi, also known as Djinn, a young girl in her early teens, is being groomed by her father to become a woman much like her own mother, Violetta, whose education, contamination and death by devices and persons unknown occurred some 10 years before the novel begins. The fact that Gigi is underage and sleeps naked in her own father's bed is only the transgressive prelude to a series of stories within stories within stories in which the fate of similar young girls is examined in the most minute detail, often culminating in terrible orgies of desecration, violation and ecstatic torture to the point of death. Every female character in the book is well under the age of consent, and are all complicit in their fate to a troubling extent.
In the last three decades Robbe-Grillet stagnated, while the culture decayed at a rapid pace. . .at his death, the former avant-garde Robbe-Grillet found himself a Man of the Debased Times. . .at age 85, Anno Domini Nostri Iesu Christi 2008, Robbe-Grillet and the culture of the day had arrived at a point in time and space where they were equals. . .the culture was not changed by his literature. . .in the literary sub-culture there may have been some mild shock at the perversion of his last novel, but in the culture-at-large his pornography is merely a sign of the times. . .
He lived too long. . .he was a great writer--when his taste for violating young girls was constrained by the culture. . .but he lived long enough to come out of the kiddie porn closet. . .he was able to indulge himself. . .as the beasts of the YouTube Age defile their own humanity, Robbe-Grillet defiled his own talent. . .
A man can write a great novel. . .but he is still what all others are: human garbage.
And if the Lord wants to toss us on the fire, who are we to complain?