Robert Pinget

I admire the writing of French author, Robert Pinget. For those readers who like a challenge and don’t insist on an action-packed plot with familiar characters, Pinget is a good choice. It is best if you read in French but there are sufficient translations in print to satisfy most readers. But Pinget is one of those authors who are better in the VO because they play with the language and even a good translator might not carry the sense of the writing into the translation.

To show you all the wonderful novels you can read by Robert Pinget, here is the list from Wikipedia:

  • Entre Fantoine et Agapa, (Jarnac, Ed. Tour de Feu, 1951), Ed. de Minuit (tr. Between Fantoine and Agapa, 1982)
  • Mahu ou le matériau, (Paris, Robert Laffont, 1952), Ed. de Minuit (tr. Mahu or The Material, 1966, 2005)
  • Le Renard et la boussole, (Paris, Gallimard, 1953), Ed. de Minuit
  • Graal flibuste, Paris, Ed. de Minuit, 1956
  • Baga, Paris, Ed. de Minuit, 1958 (tr. Baga, 1984)
  • Lettre morte, Paris, Ed. de Minuit, 1959
  • La Manivelle, Paris, Ed. de Minuit, 1960
  • Clope au dossier, Paris, Ed. de Minuit, 1961
  • Ici ou ailleurs, Paris, Ed. de Minuit, 1961
  • Architruc, Paris, Ed. de Minuit, 1961
  • L’Hypothèse, Paris, Ed. de Minuit, 1961
  • Le Fiston, Paris, Ed. de Minuit, 1959 (tr. Monsieur Levert)
  • L’Inquisitoire, Paris, Ed. de Minuit, 1962 (tr. The Inquisitory, 1982, 2003)
  • Autour de Mortin, Paris, Ed. de Minuit, 1965
  • Quelqu’un, Paris, Ed. de Minuit, 1965 (tr. Someone, 1984)
  • Le Libera, Paris, Ed. de Minuit, 1968 (tr. The Libera Me Domine, 1978)
  • Passacaille, Paris, Ed. de Minuit, 1969 (tr. Passacaglia, 1978)
  • Identité, Paris, Ed. de Minuit, 1971
  • Abel et Bela, Ed. de Minuit, 1971, (Acte Sud, coll. “Répliques”, 1992) (tr. Abel and Bela, 1987)
  • Fable, Paris, Ed. de Minuit, 1971 (tr. Fable, 1980)
  • Paralchimie, Paris, Ed. de Minuit, 1973
  • Nuit, Paris, Ed. de Minuit, 1973
  • Cette Voix, Paris, Ed. de Minuit, 1975 (tr. That Voice, 1982)
  • L’Apocryphe, Paris, Ed. de Minuit, 1980 (tr. The Apocrypha, 1986)
  • Monsieur Songe, Paris, Ed. de Minuit, 1982 (tr. Monsieur Songe, 1988)
  • Le Harnais, Paris, Ed. de Minuit, 1984
  • Charrue, Paris, Ed. de Minuit, 1985
  • Un Testament bizarre, Paris, Ed. de Minuit, 1986 (tr. A Bizarre Will, 1989)
  • L’Ennemi, Paris, Ed. de Minuit, 1987 (tr. The Enemy (novel)|The Enemy, 1991)
  • Du Nerf, Paris, Ed. de Minuit, 1990 (tr. Be Brave, 1994)
  • Cette Chose, by Robert Pinget and Jean Deyrolle (editor), Paris, (1967), 1990
  • Théo ou le temps neuf, Paris, Ed. de Minuit, 1991 (tr. Theo or The New Era, 1994)
  • L’Affaire Ducreux et autres textes, Paris, Ed. de Minuit, 1995
  • Tâches d’encre, Paris, Ed. de Minuit, 1997 (tr. Traces of Ink, 2000)
  • Mahu reparle, Paris, Ed. des Cendres, 2009
  • La Fissure, précédée de Malicotte-la-Frontière, Genève, Ed. MetisPresses, 2009
  • Jean Loiseau, in Histoires littéraires n° 40, 2010

In his short novel Cette Voix (That Voice) Pinget cuts from theme to theme until reaching a point where he resumes the interrupted themes in reverse order. This is best known as the Russian Doll structure and if you’ve manipulated a Russian Doll set, you know why the appellation is used. Pinget, however, referred to his work as an attempt at anamnesis. An anamnesis is a remembering: a recalling to memory of things from the past. Plato referenced memories from a former life as an anamnesis.

Pinget saw the thematic structure of Cette Voix as an anamnesis but he also saw the narrative structure of the novel as an an anamnesis. Even in this short work the reader must unwrap the complexities of Pinget’s triple anamnesis:

  1. That of the narrator
  2. That of the chronicler (relative to the work achieved up to the present time)
  3. Formal (relative to the structure of the book which, after the halfway mark, is recomposed or decomposed by re-ascending, the themes resume in reverse order to their formulation)

My favorite Pinget to date is L’Inquisitoire (The Inquisitor) which is an extended questioning of a suspect by a government official. The plot sounds simple but the development of the narrative is complex and intriguing. What questions do you ask to ascertain the truth and what answers do you give to avoid incriminating yourself? I found this one fascinating.

Robert Pinget is associated with the Nouveau Roman so he is a good writer to include with your reading of Alain Robbe-Grillet and Marguerite Duras. He is also often compared to Samuel Beckett and that is certainly praise enough to start reading Pinget without delay.

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