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The Interrogation Paperback – 27 Nov 2008


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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (27 Nov. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141042923
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141042923
  • Product Dimensions: 0.1 x 0.1 x 0.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 733,598 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'Praise for the 1964 edition: 'A brilliant and fascinating literary debut, flecked throughout with an originality and a freshness of thought which stirs the imagination' Sunday Telegraph 'Unusually original ... not since Antoine stared at his hand and wished it would turn into a frog in Sartre's La Nausee have I read a novel so successful in communicating the horrors of such trivia as muck up our day-to-day existence. This is a most remarkable literary debut' Spectator

About the Author

J.M.G. Le Clézio was born on 13th April 1940 in Nice. He was educated at the University College of Nice and at Bristol and London universities. With his knowledge of English he was able to work closely with his translator on The Interrogation, his first novel, which won the Prix Renaudot in 1963. Since then has written over thirty highly acclaimed books and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2008.

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Paul Bowes TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 24 Nov. 2013
Format: Paperback
'The Interrogation' is the English translation of Le Clézio's prize-winning first novel, 'Le Procès-Verbal', published in 1963 and translated the following year. It follows Adam Pollo, a 29-year-old man who is camping out illegally in a house in the south of France that has been left empty for the summer. Isolated, underfed and short of money, he struggles to stay sane by writing as his consciousness gradually dissolves in anomie.

This book set the pattern for the author's work for the next two decades: formally innovative, deliberately hard going, introverted. It is probably now best seen as the work of a very young man (Le Clézio was only twenty-three when it was published; the later work from 1980 that eventually brought him the Nobel is rather different in character). In its portrait of a man at odds with social expectations he was following in a long line of similar work by other French writers. However, unlike for example Sartre's 'Nausea' and Camus' 'The Outsider', 'The Interrogation' has not earned an international reputation as a classic, and unlike those books now seems very much of its time: particularly in its insistence that madness is a form of 'seeing truly', and in its occasional typographical tricks, which now seem undermotivated and rather conservative.

There is some good writing here, particularly when the author tries to give the reader some insight into Adam's slowly disintegrating psyche. As a description of a mind at the end of its tether, 'The Interrogation' is convincing. But it's never really clear what is at stake here, and I found Le Clézio's late attempt to widen the book's scope from individual tragedy to an indictment of an uncaring and pathological society unconvincing.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful By technoguy TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 18 Oct. 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An exercise in formal invention from a first time novelist utilizing new approaches to the subject of life,it's randomness,its chaos,its grandeur,its terror.We dispense with plot and character,we delve beneath the layers of convention,the accretions of culture into the philosophising of an extreme nature.Adam Pollo, holed up in a beach house whose owners are away,hoping they don't come back and haul him away; keeps a journal,writes letters to a mystery girlfriend,shamanistically enters into the life of moths,dogs,rats,panthers.He makes journeys to shops,into town or visits the beach or harbour.He spies upon people,sunbathers,beachcombers,receives letters Post Restante from his worried parents who want him to come home.In his interior adventures he discovers ways of being,ways of seeing in his state of exile.He is `not sure whether he has left the army or a mental home'(Le Clezio says in introduction), in a `kind of game or jigsaw-puzzle in the form of a novel'.Le Clezio utilizes techniques of modernism in an experimental and abstract way: we get each chapter starts with a letter of the alphabet,there are quotes from the extracts of novels and newspapers,typographical innovations,including words crossed out.There are Lautreamont flights of lyricism in descriptions of nature,poems, memories of his childhood, the sight of drowned bodies in the harbour, the self interrogation of philosophical speculations: 'Simultaneity is the total annihilation of time and not of movement,an annihilation not necessarily to be conceived as mystical experience,but by a constant exercise of the will to the absolute in abstract reasoning'.He is alienated and his internal dialogues overflow into the public space as he addresses people in the market-place that leads to him being committed for psychiatric observation.Read more ›
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3 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Gargantua Pantaloon on 17 Mar. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There is a respectable French intellectual obsession <Camus and Houlebec>-with the detailing of the solitary self reflective internal world. Generally this makes for an interesting reading experience, but here it's relentless - drawn out ad nauseam with no concessions.

If you want to know what it's like following a dog through town or killing a rat for fifty pages, including every tiniest flash of observation and wildest nuance of thought and imagination, this is the book for you. Only a Frenchman could produce this kind of drivel.

I read this as an example of Nobel literature prize quality material-it's certainly extraordinary-that a writer can sustain excreting this babbling brook of nonsense for 223 pages. But it's a curiosity, not a great work.

If I had a lifespan of several thousand years I might be tempted to pass a bored afternoon fruitlessly flicking through this garbage, but as things stand I relished holding it up lightly between my thumb and forefinger, releasing my grip and letting it fall into the cavernous open mouth of the rubbish bin.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 9 reviews
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Visionary Madness 22 Mar. 2010
By Roger Brunyate - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
J. M. G. Le Clézio, who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2008, sprang to international acclaim in 1963 with this visionary novel, published when he was only 23. Fragmented, enigmatic, and obsessive, it is utterly different from his more recent masterpieces such as ONITSHA and WANDERING STAR. And yet how could one not be drawn to an author who opens with a self-deprecating preface in which he apologizes for the book in hand, and promises to do better next time, perhaps with something in the manner of Conan Doyle?! There is a lightness and humor about the entire book, no matter how abstruse it may get in its philosophy, that kept me reading eagerly and with a smile.

The principal character, Adam Pollo, is an educated man of about 30 whom we see squatting in an empty house above a French seaside town, making occasional forays for "fags, beer, chocolate, stuff to eat" and to take a look around. He is unsure whether he has deserted from the army or escaped from a mental hospital. He writes obsessively in a notebook in the form of letters to Michèle, a young woman who visits him early in the book, despite the fact that he virtually raped her some time before. He follows a black dog around the town. He gets into meaningless conversations with strangers, or overhears scraps of dialogue and has them pullulate in his mind. But most of the time he thinks, with a visionary intensity that is extraordinary.

A friend remarked that the isolated young man in the seaside town may be a reflection of the title character in Camus' THE STRANGER (1942). I myself picked up echoes of the "nouveau roman" movement of the 1950s in the occasional exhaustive listing of physical objects. THE INTERROGATION indeed owes a lot to the French avant-garde literature that preceded it, but unlike Camus' protagonist who cannot feel, Adam feels too much. He has an extraordinary power to penetrate the objects and life around him, involving himself totally in the self-immolation of insects sizzling in his candle-flame, or seeing the sun as "...an immense golden spider, its rays covering the sky like tentacles, some twisting, others forming a huge W, clinging to projections in the ground, to every escarpment, at fixed points. All the other tentacles were undulating slowly, lazily, dividing into branches, separating into countless ramifications, splitting open and immediately closing up again, waving to and fro like seaweed."

Adam's vision, like the author's, is that of a writer. In the middle of the book, he joins a crowd around the body of a drowned man who has been fished from the sea. He goes on to imagine the conversation of the other bystanders: "And of course (since he who writes is shaping a destiny for himself), they little by little become one with those who drowned the chap." This leads to a string of other disconnected stories about people we never see. Later still, he receives a letter from his mother begging him to come back home; she too has made up a narrative about her son in order to contain and control him, or come to grips with his defection. We all live by stories, but stories can also unmake and destroy us. Fragments of novels, newspapers, poems, and printed signs litter the novel like debris. In one chapter, Adam goes from café to café searching for Michèle, only to end up in lists of places from a gazetteer or names from a book index: "It was among them that he should have hunted. Then he'd have found everything, including Michèle seated at dawn in a deck-chair, cold and wet with dew, shivering amid these interwoven forces."

In the end, Adam's tendency to see every tiny piece of his environment as a part of the entire universe -- and also as part of the totality of history, past, present, and future -- reduces him, as an individual, to nothing. He begins to harangue bystanders on the promenade and is arrested and hospitalized. There, he is interviewed by a group of medical students (the Interrogation of the title), but they can do little to penetrate his isolation and completeness. He is alone. He is content.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
An unusual mind 14 Dec. 2010
By TChris - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"The Earth is blue like an orange": the words of a clever poet or of a madman disconnected from reality? J.M.G. Le Clezio explores the legendarily thin line separating the mentally astute from the mentally ill in The Interrogation.

Adam Pollo isn't sure whether he has recently been discharged from a mental institution or from the army. He lives in an abandoned house at the top of a hill, spends his days in a deck-chair by an open window, waiting "without moving, proud of being almost dehumanized," in a state he describes as meditative, watching the shadows of insects and "reconstructing a world of childish terrors." Adam is isolated, but claims he doesn't want to be alone: he wants to "exist with the coefficient 2, or 3, or 4, instead of that infernal coefficient 1." He thinks about and sometimes tries to write to Michele, the woman he met on the beach. Sometimes he follows a dog through the streets. Toward the end of the novel Adam makes a rambling speech to a gathering crowd and later finds himself in an asylum where he's interrogated by students under the disdainful supervision of a psychiatrist.

Although the psychiatrist is quick to attach diagnostic labels to Adam's mental illnesses, the reader is less certain, in part because Adam is so adept at verbal jousting with the students. Adam is disturbed and troubled, but those are traits shared by many who avoid institutionalization. It's clear that Adam doesn't function well in society, equally clear that he doesn't much want to -- his isolation is self-imposed, as evidenced by a letter from his mother -- but in his self-absorbed world, Adam's mind flourishes. Adam finds meaning in random forms of light and shadow, the product of a different way of seeing. This resembles mental illness more than genius, but the novel seems to be asking: who is to say? It is Adam, after all, who calls attention to the poetic phrase "the Earth is blue like an orange," asking why its author isn't regarded as a lunatic. Adam defines life as "a kind of disorder of the consciousness," and despite our ceaseless attempts to impose order on our straying and occasionally irrational thoughts, Adam might be right.

I confess that I found some of the novel's middle passages tiresome, particularly when Le Clezio began playing with the novel's form, changing fonts and lining out text and leaving big blank spaces between brackets. The devices approximate the disorder of Adam's mind, I get it, but after awhile reading disordered thoughts gets to be a lot of work. Other parts of the novel, including the interrogation and Adam's interaction with the students, struck me as brilliant. I would give The Interrogation 4 1/2 stars if I could. Although uneven, the novel is well worth reading for its lyrical prose and biting dialog, as well as its insightful examination of an unusual mind.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Parmenides was the clue 26 May 2012
By Dirk van Nouhuys - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In French, the title " procès-verbal" is more accurate and more broadly evocative than 'Interrogation.' A 'procès-verbal' may refer the minutes of a meeting, such as the meeting some psychiatry students hold to question the protagonist in the last third of the book, but it may all so refer to a summary of the facts in a criminal case, which is what the whole book is.

On the surface, this is the story of a mentally disturbed young man who gradually slips from life squatting in a house in a southern French resort town where he is involved in something resembling a relationship with a girl, through progressively more bizarre actions and harangues to confinement in a mental hospital. At least for me, the young man in his self-centered state is initially unattractive. His "girlfriend"- at least she lends him money and is willing to have sex with him - he treats rather badly not only out of indifference and self-preoccupation but also out of a sort of misdirected inner rage. But as his struggles continue he becomes ever more sympathetic and engaging until at the end he is an eloquent spokesman for a view of reality.

The turning point in my feelings about the protagonist is a section where he joins the crowd around the body of a drowned man that has recently been hauled from the sea. There is some really remarkable writing in this part of the book, which portrays in prose appropriate to each subject the reactions of the bystanders, the physical reality of the waterlogged corpse, the highly textured reality of the shale beach, the stereotyped life of the drowned man and his family, and other matters. Writing in this book often shows this sort of flexibility; there is effective writing of many sorts: descriptions of nature, descriptions of mental states, description of animals, and descriptions of the nature of reality from a certain perspective. Part of the novel is epistilatory, consisting of letters written to the girlfriend, if not delivered to her.

What is this perspective? What is his struggle about? Our protagonist is very well educated. He occasionally refers to a number of obscure writers including Manilius, a little-known and difficult Latin poet who wrote about astronomy, the Catholic mystic Jan van Ruysbroek, who inclined towards pantheism, and the pre-Socratic philosopher Parmenides. For me, because his thought intrigues me, Parmenides was the clue. Saying almost anything about Parmenides is a controversial oversimplification[...], but, granting that, Parmenides' subject is the elaboration of the relationship between the unity and diversity of things. This is the protagonist's struggle, to order and elaborate the relationship between diversity and unity in the broadest sense. That is the reason for the different, detailed descriptions of reality from different perspectives. It appears in his view of the pebbly beach, of the diversity of the crowd looking at the drowned man, in the process of the breakdown of the drowned man's body, which is devolving into components but is still a single thing, in his identification with animals in zoo, is what he is struggling with when his haranguing the crowd with a speech that eventually gets him committed, is what he is trying to tell the students about, and to tell them that understanding the unity in diversity is more important than understanding whether he is mad or not.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Don't waste your time 8 Jun. 2012
By Schmerguls - Published on Amazon.com
Since the author won the Nobel Prize I thought I should read something by him. Apparently this is a novel devoted to absurdity. I don't deprecate guys like Ionescu, whose stuff is in a way appealing. But I could find nothing appealing in this account of a weirdo who messed up a house he had no right to be in, and did all sorts of stupid inane things. I was glad to get to the last page.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
'whoever feels different goes voluntary into a madhouse' 27 April 2010
By technoguy - Published on Amazon.com
An exercise in formal invention from a first time novelist utilizing new approaches to the subject of life,it's randomness,its chaos,its grandeur,its terror.We dispense with plot and character,we delve beneath the layers of convention,the accretions of culture into the philosophising of an extreme nature.Adam Pollo, holed up in a beach house whose owners are away,hoping they don't come back and haul him away; keeps a journal,writes letters to a mystery girlfriend,shamanistically enters into the life of moths,dogs,rats,panthers.He makes journeys to shops,into town or visits the beach or harbour.He spies upon people,sunbathers,beachcombers,receives letters Post Restante from his worried parents who want him to come home.In his interior adventures he discovers ways of being,ways of seeing in his state of exile.He is `not sure whether he has left the army or a mental home'(Le Clezio says in introduction), in a `kind of game or jigsaw-puzzle in the form of a novel'.Le Clezio utilizes techniques of modernism in an experimental and abstract way: we get each chapter starts with a letter of the alphabet,there are quotes from the extracts of novels and newspapers,typographical innovations,including words crossed out.There are Lautreamont flights of lyricism in descriptions of nature,poems, memories of his childhood, the sight of drowned bodies in the harbour, the self interrogation of philosophical speculations: 'Simultaneity is the total annihilation of time and not of movement,an annihilation not necessarily to be conceived as mystical experience,but by a constant exercise of the will to the absolute in abstract reasoning'.He is alienated and his internal dialogues overflow into the public space as he addresses people in the market-place that leads to him being committed for psychiatric observation.The question at the end -is he more sane than his interrogators?This is a richly rewarding novel for the future Nobel laureate,its like a trial run into the future possibilities, mining existential themes it depicts the consciousness of a man trapped between god-like visions and paranoid delusions and sustains what Le Clezio wished for, a'complete fiction' of essential reality.
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