novel: The French Novel

The French Novel

The greatest masterpiece of the 20th-century novel in France is widely acknowledged to be Marcel Proust's Remembrance of Things Past (1913–27), a monumental work in seven parts that is at once an inquiry into the meaning of experience, a study of the development of an artist, and a detailed portrait of life within a particular segment of French society. Also important are Jean-Paul Sartre's Nausea (1938) and Albert Camus's The Stranger (1942), both fictional explications of existentialism. In the late 1950s there appeared in France the so-called new novel, in which traditional elements such as plot, characterization, and rational ordering of time and space are abandoned and replaced by flashbacks, slow motion, magnification of objects, and a scenario format, all of which produce a mutant—the novel influenced by films. New novelists include Michel Butor, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Marguerite Duras, and Nathalie Sarraute.

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The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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