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One of the Guardian Unlimited Books' top 10 literary blogs: "A home-grown treasure ... smart, serious analysis"

The Bookaholics' Guide to Book Blogs: "Mark Thwaite ... has a maverick, independent mind"

Thursday 12 January 2006

Me on Sarraute's The Planetatium

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 Pécuchet) 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 ...

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Reader Comments

Thursday 12 January 2006

Anne Fernald says...


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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Pre-order Anu Garg's new book: The Dord, the Diglot, and an Avocado or Two: The Hidden Lives and Strange Origins of Common and Not-So-Common Words (ISBN 9780452288614), published by Penguin more …

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