- Birthday, Books, Quotes, Reading, Writing

Alain Robbe-Grillet on Writing, Literature, Memory, and More


Happy birthday, Alain Robbe-Grillet! Here are some quotes from the writer.


“The true writer has nothing to say. What counts is the way he says it.”


“The writer must proudly consent to bear his own date, knowing that there are no masterpieces in eternity, but only works in history, and that they survive only to the degree that they have left the past behind them and heralded the future.”


“The word ‘avant-garde,’ for example, despite its note of impartiality, generally serves to dismiss—as though by a shrug of the shoulders—any work that risks giving a bad conscience to the literature of mass consumption.”


“But the world is neither meaningful nor absurd. It quite simply is. And that, in any case, is what is most remarkable about it.”


“My narratives are often composed in such a way that any attempt to reconstruct an external chronology results in a series of contradictions. More intelligent critics have called what I do ‘temporal irony.'”


“When a novelist has ‘something to say,’ they mean a message. It has political connotations, or a religious message, or a moral prescription. It means ‘commitment,’ as used by Sartre and other fellow-travelers. They are saying that the writer has a world view, a sort of truth that he wishes to communicate, and that his writing has an ulterior significance. I am against this. Flaubert described a whole world, but he had nothing to say, in the sense that he had no message to transmit, no remedy to offer for the human condition.”


“Memory belongs to the imagination. Human memory is not like a computer that records things; it is part of the imaginative process, on the same terms as invention. In other words, inventing a character or recalling a memory is part of the same process. This is very clear in Proust: For him there is no difference between lived experience—his relationship with his mother, and so forth—and his characters. Exactly the same type of truth is involved.”


“I am certain that a novelist is someone who attributes a different reality-value to the characters and events of his story than to those of ‘real’ life. A novelist is someone who confuses his own life with that of his characters.”


  • John Madera is the author of Nervosities (Anti-Oedipus Press, 2024). His other fiction is published in Conjunctions, Salt Hill, The &Now Awards 2: The Best Innovative Writing, and many other journals. His nonfiction is published in American Book Review, Bookforum, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Rain Taxi: Review of Books, The Believer, The Brooklyn Rail, and many other venues. Recipient of an M.F.A. in Literary Arts from Brown University, New York State Council on the Arts awardee John Madera lives in New York City, Rhizomatic and manages and edits Big Other.

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