The Voyeur
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

The Voyeur

3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  609 ratings  ·  44 reviews
Mathias, a timorous, ineffectual traveling salesman, returns to the island of his birth after a long absence. Two days later, a thirteen-year-old girl is found drowned and mutilated. With eerie precision, Robbe-Grillet puts us at the scene of the crime and takes us inside Mathias’s mind, artfully enlisting us as detective hot on the trail of a homocidal maniac. A triumphan...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published February 10th 1994 by Grove Press (first published 1956)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
The Horse's Mouth by Joyce CaryA Division of the Spoils by Paul ScottThe Day of the Scorpion by Paul ScottThe Best of Philip K. Dick by Philip K. DickThe Towers of Silence by Paul Scott
REALLY Underrated Books (Fewer than 1,000 Ratings)
118th out of 2,902 books — 1,114 voters
The Sound and the Fury by William FaulknerSlaughterhouse-Five by Kurt VonnegutIf on a Winter's Night a Traveler by Italo CalvinoTo the Lighthouse by Virginia WoolfAbsalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner
Style as Text
62nd out of 215 books — 71 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,432)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
This was the one which convinced me that I didn't have to finish a book if it became as painful as having my toes gnawed off one by one by the neighbour's strange nine-year-old son. I realised the author was the guy who wrote the script for Last Year at Marienbad which is the all time quintessence of French cinematic 60s avant-gardery. Dig the Wikipedia plot summary

Through ambiguous flashbacks and disorientating shifts of time and location, the film explores the relationships between the charact...more
Stephen P
It was as if no one had heard.
The whistle blew again-a shrill, prolonged noise followed by three short blasts of ear-splitting violence: a violence without purpose that remained without effect.

This is the beginning of Robbe-Grillet's, The Voyuer. What are we to make of it? Continous, obstinate, simple declarative observations of concrete objects. Is this the vision of a pursuer, pursued, a keen detective, the cultured pen of a writer who threatens the accumulation of metaphoric meaning? The te...more
Different mediums handle styles of narrative with more success than others. I think that Robbe-Grillet's style is one such example. I loved the film Last Year at Marienbad, which he wrote the screenplay for. The repetitiveness, the continual focus on the details of the hotel, the surreal dreamlike quality worked perfectly. A lot of the same stylistic themes are present in The Voyeur but they make me yawn here. I think some of why it works in the film is that the film is visually captivating, if...more
A slog. With a mere 25 pages to go, I lost patience and couldn't finish it. There's a redundancy of detail that, I know, Robbe-Grillet thinks is his clever structural trick, but here, in translation, unlike in the exquisite Jealousy, is simply tedious. Read Jealousy instead.
Nate D
Aug 03, 2010 Nate D rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: traveling watch salesmen harbouring unseemly preoccupations
Recommended to Nate D by: 60s/70s avant-garde film
A mesmerizing mystery/novel. By which I mean that the novel itself, and its fascinating construction, is as much the object of the mystery as the murder that seems to be contained within its pages. Here, unlike similarly subjective novels, Robbe-Grillet withholds any truly concrete narrative foundation as springboard to his stream-of-consciousness flights of fancy. There simply isn't any recognizable objective reality in the novel, as far as I an tell on first reading. We're constantly given see...more
Scott Gates
Beautifully and very very patiently written, The Voyeur reads like a dark fairy tale for adults (“all great novels are great fairy tales”—Nabokov).

The main character, Mathias, is a watch salesman, and his obsessive-compulsive fixation on the minutest details of stuff cripples his ability to sell anything. Mathias is always doing stuff like this (he’s at a bar, drinking an aperitif, trying to figure out the brand of the drink):

“Mathias wanted to reconstruct the scene in order to try to fasten on...more
This was such a gripping, suspenseful book. The premise is very simple: a salesman visits a small island of which he was once a resident, hoping to sell his stock of wristwatches. After that, everything is up for grabs, including the central turn of the plot, the murder of a young girl. The suspense builds slowly, but don't run out of patience. This is a meta-thriller, where you begin to doubt whether there's even such a thing as "narrative" at all.
Brent Legault
Jun 27, 2008 Brent Legault rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: parallel line enthusiasts, stray string nuts
At first, I thought this would be a novel without character. There was so much detail, seemingly (genuinely?) meaningless detail, so much set dressing and debris, that I couldn't make any sense of it. Twenty pages in and I was still dumbfounded.

But then I began to get it, and furthermore, get into it. And Robbe-Grillet began to leave behind his ant's-eye view of things and his prose began to stand up straight like a man. Or, in this case, a madman.

It's a difficult novel and the (cough, cough) p...more
One of the strangest books ever wriiten, this could be a sinister mystery of a girl's disappearnce on a holiday island, or it could be the ramblings of a bored vacationer.

In the movie "Sideways" the character played by Paul Giamatti is telling his would-be girlfriend on their first date about the novel he's currently writing; he explains that he started the novel going one direction, then turned it into "a sort of Robbe-Grillet mystery, you know?" -- to which the girl he's speaking to vacantly n...more
If this is the New Novel, I'd like the Old Novel back. Who is the voyeur? Is it the salesman, bumbling around on his bicycle with his gumdrops, cigs and cord? Is it the entire village? Is it the ominous sea gull? Is it the reader? There are so many planes and figure eights in this novel. So many slices and sluices, parallels and perpendiculars. Prepare to feel like you're failing algebra. You want motive? You want a sex scene? Robbe-Grillet gives us a series of napes. Napes of necks. Necks with...more
An intricately crafted novel that evokes the same buried dread and mounting tension of a David Lynch movie. The Voyeur develops through a strange sort of dream logic that is absolutely captivating- once acclimated to its experimental structure that explores both narrative structure and the relationship between author/reader/character. Bruce Morrissette from his chapter on the novel in The Novels of Robbe-Grillet:
" [...] in The Voyeur, the author -absent, impersonal, but possessing a special "vis
read yesterday in the paper that robbe-grillet passed away. i read this book a long time ago so my memory of it is not so fresh. but i do recall being very affected by the style, the creepiness of it. or how the author makes you feel like a voyeur just by reading about a voyeur. in a way, something similar to what knut hamsun achieved in hunger (making the reader feel insane from hunger).
Juliana Gray
Fascinating exploration of point of view, with the third person narration doubling back on his own timeline in an elegant figure eight. I'd love to teach this book some day, though it might be too difficult for undergraduates.
Jun 21, 2009 aya rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to aya by: tanya
it took a while for me to get into this but once i did, it was stunning. incredibly geometric, cinematic but all chopped up. fucking genius.
So creepy...
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
When I was in college, someone told me about a novel that contains (or at least this is how I remember him telling me about it) a blank page where the reader can never be sure what happened on that blank page, but presumably it was a horrible rape/murder. Years later I would frequently think back to that conversation and wonder what the name of that book was. Originally I thought it sounded very clever, later I thought it sounded kind of gimmicky. A few months ago I was reading a critical introd...more
This book was a major challenge to read, and at the same time an absolute feat of literary cubism. I'm a great reader, and my favorite kinds of books are ones that mess with the reader's head. This may be the most head messing with book I've ever read in my life. Take 'The Stranger' and combine it with the movie 'Pi' and you may have something near 1/2 of the mind-fuckery that this book was. I actually think it would be a fantastic artsy film that about 5 people would ever get. Somewhat like wit...more
Jun 25, 2008 Luke rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Luke by: AMP
The Voyuer includes one of the neatest literary tricks ever executed. The story of a murderer wandering his home island unfolds obliquely in a cubist manner. The "absent narrator" effect heightens the utter estrangement of character and traditional plot devices. The primary lines of narrative are rather spatial and object-oriented. In my favorite passage, two characters are connected seamlessly through a gull perched on a fence equidistant between them. Robbe-Grillet uses the bird's dual monocu...more
Starts out infuriating but gradually becomes fascinating as you realize the complex collaboration you, the reader/voyeur, are engaging in with the author.
The Voyeur fits very well the "anti novel" bill; a book that eschews any psychological insight/motivation but leaves one inferring what happens and why while using a very clear and compelling language to present the narrative.

If you feel like doing a crossword puzzle or playing a computer game but reading is your passion, try this book and you will get the feel of the above while reading a master of contemporary literature.

Do not expect things to be simple, make sense or offer too much of a res...more
Kia Jaikaran
Alain-Robbe Grillet is a sheer genius. The seeming redundancy in this novel makes it metaphorically ironic in that one would think that due to such redundancy and repetition, the predictability of events would be blatantly obvious but it isn't as the reader is given so much but yet so little because the "crime" is lacks an element of certainty, inflicts such confusion, it makes it virtually impossible to solve. Even Mathias' accounts of events cannot be trusted because of the psychoanalytic disc...more
Man goes back to island of his birth/ childhood to flog some watches on which a young girl dies.
Time and memory seem to be confused throughout, the same scene is repeated over and over with slight variations - are these repeats of the same time and place or of a different time but the same place? Does he commit a crime, fantasise about commiting it or go back to relive the commiting of it? Does a crime even take place?
Beautifully written book full of questions, cold, dark and confusing.

Jan 08, 2010 KeTURah marked it as abandoned

I was supposed to read this book for a college class but did not finish. I tried but was hopelessly repulsed by the infinitely detailed descriptions that Robbe-Grillet obviously loves. He even uses measurements to describe objects. I find this grating.

Although I'm halfway through this time around, which is a considerable improvement over my last attempt, I'm still having a lot of difficulty slogging through the minutiae.
Coincidentally reading this immediately preceding Reticence had me drawing a lot of similarities, that I bring up in the Reticence review. Also, this marks the earliest Robbe-Grillet novel I've read, and really the book that found him breaking through into a somewhat populist intellectual. The book is great, but still pales in comparison with the 70s novels that I love so much.
One of my favorite books. For some reason I have never remembered to write about it here. This is one of the best written of the sort of noir-esque crime fiction novels I've read, with interesting plot twists and a thoroughly creepy main character.
I read this several years after seeing the film Clean, Shaven, and I remember thinking that the two had a lot in common.
Oct 30, 2007 Jason rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: no one
Shelves: shelved
this book was very hard to follow. i don't know why it the awards it got because this book was not good at all. i couldn't finish it because it was so bad. the preview on the back of the book intrigued me, but the book didn't live up to it. i read halfway through the book and the story didn't make any sense. i wouldn't waste my time reading this book.
At first I was bored by Alain Robbe-Grillet's The Voyeur. It seemed pointless and annoying - typical avant-garde bullshit. But then the book got really good and I realized that the author was completely fucking with me. The ending was intense and utterly changed the way I looked at the book.
Mar 16, 2009 Dan rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: novels
The precision of the narrator’s detailed descriptions do not contribute to plot or characterization—they contribute to the device of repetition employed in the narration—events are narrated multiple times, or doubled through parallels with similar events.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 47 48 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Waiting for the Mahatma
  • Eden, Eden, Eden
  • The Impossible
  • Novels in Three Lines
  • The Home and the World
  • The Bathroom
  • Miracle of the Rose
  • The Book of Monelle
  • Aurélia and Other Writings
  • The Planetarium
  • The Cairo Trilogy: Palace Walk / Palace of Desire / Sugar Street (The Cairo Trilogy #1-3)
  • The Lime Works
  • Moravagine
  • The Great Fire of London: A Story with Interpolations and Bifurcations
  • Berg
  • Gemini
  • Paris Peasant
  • The Supermale
Alain Robbe-Grillet was a French writer and filmmaker. He was along with Nathalie Sarraute, Michel Butor and Claude Simon one of the figures most associated with the trend of the Nouveau Roman. Alain Robbe-Grillet was elected a member of the Académie française on March 25, 2004, succeeding Maurice Rheims at seat #32.

He was married to Catherine Robbe-Grillet (née Rstakian) .

Alain Robbe-Grillet was...more
More about Alain Robbe-Grillet...
Jealousy The Erasers Jealousy & In the Labyrinth For a New Novel: Essays on Fiction In The Labyrinth

Share This Book