'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. Adam Pollo seems less a man facing an existential crisis than a child who has never grown up.
Worth reading as an example of what was attracting attention at the time, but hard to recommend as a rewarding reading experience. At this point, Alain Robbe-Grillet and Claude Simon, among others, were doing more substantial avant-garde work.
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.
on 17 March 2010
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.