cover image La Belle Captive

La Belle Captive

Alain Robbe-Grillet, Rena1/2 Magritte, Ren? Magritte. University of California Press, $48 (250pp) ISBN 978-0-520-05916-0

Magritte was already dead when Robbe-Grillet wrote their ``collaborative'' nouveau roman, but there is much of him in it. The title, for one, refers to a series of paintings in each of which a piece of landscape is captured in a painting, set apart from its subject only by the barely visible outline of the stapled canvas. Magritte was also deeply interested in the relationship between words and images (Les Mots et Les Images is the title of his best-known written contribution to surrealism). Robbe-Grillet arranged the surrealist's work (Stoltzfus has supplemented the author's 77 original choices with 21 additional paintings not seen by PW) to inspire a loose narrative of fatal incestuous desire and abduction. The heavy-handed metaphoric descriptions (a hypodermic jammed into the breast of a prone girl) are less interesting than subtler details, like the structure of the second part which depicts a man in a cell forced to read a book that simultaneously creates the narrative--a kind of written version of Magritte's La Belle Captive. Stoltzfus's essay is clearly aimed at an academic audience. And La Belle Captive itself is an example of the nouveau roman at its most obtuse, one best left to those who sat through that famous Robbe-Grillet/Alain Resnais joint venture, L'Annee derniere a Marienbad with no trace of impatience. (Mar.)