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Le Clézio's debut novel is a curate's egg,
This review is from: The Interrogation (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. 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.