Constructing Meaning in the Spanish and French New Novel: Juan Benet and Alain Robbe-Grillet

Author: Sánchez, Francisco Javier
This work anyalzes the novelistic world of Juan Benet and Alain Robbe-Grillet, acclaimed founders of the Spanish Nueva Novela and the French Nouveau Roman. It analyzes the authors’ most influential novels: Les gommes (1953), Le voyeur (1955), La jalousie (1957), Volverás a Región (1967), Una meditación (1969) and Un viaje de invierno (1972), and challenges the view that these novels are superfluous, experimental and not having any direct relationship to reality.


“Sánchez’s study examines the two “innovators” and determines that, despite a prevailing opinion to the contrary, Robbe-Grillet and Benet in fact demonstrate very distinct narrative features. Whereas on the one hand the French writer heaps up a multitude of clues out of which readers must make some kind of sense, the Spanish novelist, on the other hand, employs a vast array of narrative artifices which startle the reader; in telling so very much, he really tells nothing at all. The critic also elucidates some similarities, pointing out that both novelists share an intense dislike for Realist literature, as well as for pre-established, highly predictable meanings. In the case of Robbe-Grillet, the reader is confronted with a crossword puzzle, whereas in the case of Benet, Sánchez affirms that the reader is presented with “a textual labyrinth of descriptions, allusions, different perspectives and conjectures which affords the reader a strong sense of incongruity, strangeness, ambiguity and mystery. . . . makes a substantial contribution to the field of comparative studies, and is particularly useful for anyone interested in the French and Spanish “new” novel.” – Prof. Pablo Gil Casado, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

“. . . illuminates how each of the two writers deconstructs existing theoretical notions of literary creation in order to devise a series of linguistic codes that in their totality challenge and question more traditional methods of representing reality. Storylines, plot devices and character construction also subvert traditional modes of how the reader reads each text, thus attesting to the peripatetic process of the creation and the deciphering of meaning.” – Prof. Lisa Nalbone, University of Central Florida

“This very readable and well-argued work succeeds in pointing out the fascinating individual similarities and differences exhibited by the works of these two representatives of the new novel. However, and more important yet, it also succeeds in dispelling the frequently held notion that the narratives of the Nouveau Roman and the Nueva Novela are experimental texts, devoid of meaning, as it shows instead that Robbe-Grillet and Benet’s use of language does construct meaning, even if such meaning is artificial and impermanent.” – Prof. María A. Salgado, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Table of Contents

Foreword by Doctor Pablo Gil Casado
1. Toward a Definition of Alain Robbe-Grillet’s Fiction
Literary Background and Critical Views
Alain Robbe-Grillet’s Theory
2. Toward A Definition of Juan Benet’s Fiction Literary Background and Critical Views
Juan Benet’s Theory
3. A World of Shifting Realities: Alain Robbe-Grillet
Interpreting the Clues In Les Gommes
On A Closer Look, The Imaginary Is The Real In Le Voyeur
La Jalousie: At the Crossroads of Meaning
4. A World of Enigma and Contradiction: Juan Benet
Volverás A Región: The Novel of Aborted Embryos
The Fictitious Nature of Una Meditación
Un Viaje De Invierno: A World of Opposing Forces