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My review of Nathalie Sarraute's The Planetarium (Dalkey Archive Press) appears in today's Times Literary Supplement (I know! The TLS!)


Sarraute, like the best revolutionaries, knew her canon. Her conception of the novel was greatly influenced by both Proust and Virginia Woolf, but Flaubert (especially Bouvard and P├ęcuchet) and Dostoevsky were also important precursors ... Sceptical of plot, chronology, characterization and traditional narrative, yet highly structured, subtle and artful, The Planetarium's central narrative is beguilingly simple. Alain, a struggling writer, wants his aunt's impressive flat, a dwelling that he is convinced is too big for her and would be far more suitable for him and his wife - perfect for their ambitions of social advancement. His father is both ashamed of and enlivened by this behaviour, his aunt mortified ... Sarraute is not a writer for whom story is a central concern. Her fiction is built by carefully layering broken sentences connected by ellipses ... This feels like Woolf's stream of consciousness, but the sense of the words flows, languidly, complicatedly, rhythmically, as it does in Proust's radical, run-on sentences. Strangely, with so little attention paid to characterization, the novels are acutely psychological ...

Readers Comments

  1. Congratulations!

    I remember browsing in the women's bookstore in Paris--right in the Latin Quarter. The clerk asked if she could help--if there was anything that interested me. I told her I was just browsing but she pressed me for more. When I told her I was working on Woolf, she pressed a little Sarraute book in my hands, "Il faut la suivre," was the gist of her command.

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