By Elizabeth Soto

I hate repetition.  I avoid repeating myself by saying, or trying to say what I want to say clearly and succinctly from the start.  Sometimes, I catch myself in a casual conversation about to cut someone off and demand that they get to the point.  It’s bad, I know, but I associate repetition with people who non-creatively, or in a frustratingly creative manner, believe that there is always some worth in saying or doing the same thing hundreds or thousands of times.  La Jalousie narrates, from the perspective of a jealous husband, both real and imagined scenes between his wife, A…., and his neighbor, Franck, in an obsessive search for clues which point to a possible affair those two might be having.  As expected of such an obsessive person, he replays those scenes over and over in his narration until the reader can no longer distinguish between scenes that are “from memory” and scenes that are actually happening in the novel.  Frankly, I skimmed through the hundred page novel because I was frustrated at having to read yet another description of how the caterpillar which the neighbor always kills as a favor to the narrator’s wife is squished into a question mark as it crawls up the white wall of the dining room.  You see?  I skimmed the novel, yet I still remember the caterpillar in detail: that is how repetitive Jealousy is.

Image courtesy of les_sens_ordinaires

Another thing about Robbe-Grillet’s work which frustrated me was the complete lack of emphasis (or more like a constant over-emphasis) when it came to description.  Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, was given less or more mention than any other person, thing, or event.  If it had been a film, I think I could have relaxed a little, but reading such a detailed description every time the same scene was narrated bombarded me with images that I had no idea how to handle or interpret.  To maintain my sanity, I decided to only pay attention to people and living things, but then those people got into car troubles and held blue paper and I quickly forgot what was so important about people and started to focus on mechanical troubles and objects the narrator’s wife was mending or holding.  But there was nothing special there either, so I switched my focus to simply getting through the novel.  So I did that, but I wasn’t happy at the end either, because the jealous husband was still repeating and inventing scenes of infidelity between his wife and his neighbor…

What are the some of the books you’ve read that you’ve felt dissatisfied with?  Do you think I judged Robbe-Grillet too harshly?  Let me know in the comment section below.

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