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Le Voyeur

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  1,181 ratings  ·  93 reviews
Matthias est un voyageur de commerce, spécialisé dans la vente au porte à porte de montres, qui décide de passer la journée dans son île de naissance pour vendre sa marchandise. Méticuleux et précis, il a 6 heures pour faire le tour de l'île et tenter d'écouler ses 99 montres qu'il transporte dans une valise avant de reprendre le bateau qui le ramènera le soir, après trois ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published February 10th 1955 by Les Éditions de Minuit (first published 1955)
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 ·  1,181 ratings  ·  93 reviews

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Vit Babenco
Nov 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Alain Robbe-Grillet is very careful about details… He describes objects as scrupulously as if he paints a series of still lifes. Memories of the past and the present events are interlaced so smoothly that the sense of reality becomes blurred…
When he was still a child – perhaps twenty-five or thirty years ago – he had had a big cardboard box, an old shoebox, in which he collected pieces of string. Not any string, not scraps of inferior quality, worn, frayed bits that had been spoiled by overuse,
Jack Tripper
This was my first experience with the nouveaux romans of Robbe-Grillet, and it's a tough one for me to rate, as I had no idea what was happening half the time. Okay, most of the time. All I know for certain is that a traveling watch salesman returns to his small hometown island in order to sell as many watches as he can in the few short hours allotted to him (if he misses the ferry back he'll be stranded for days). A murder of a young girl happens while he's there, for which he may or may not be ...more
Paul Bryant
Nov 20, 2007 rated it did not like it
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
Stephen P(who no longer can participate due to illness)
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
L.S. Popovich
A deceptive book. First the title, then the cover and blurbs on the back lead you to think it's a mystery, that it contains a plot, or even meaningful characters. The back cover claims it is an expression of literature as art. But nouveau roman is a vague category. It can take many forms. I was reminded of Beckett, who's work, in my mind, ranged from atrocious to miraculously good. Robbe-Grillet's purpose in this novel seemed to be to experiment with detail, not to entertain, enlighten, or innov ...more
Mar 24, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Apr 05, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
Nate D
Jul 30, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
The Literary Chick
I cannot read this hypnotic book enough times. Imagine being inside the mind of Peter Lorre's character in M, only through multiple ambiguous shots. Did the timid watch salesman brutally kill the girl? Inside his head you can feel the disassociation and increasing feeling of contained hysteria. And who is the voyeur? ...more
Aug 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: france, suspense
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
Jun 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Jun 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  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.
What was it that happened in France in the mid-20th Century? Why did all of these writers suddenly start writing these eerie, abstract things that, while rooted in descriptions of such everyday shit, kind of just roll around? Did it have anything to do with the fact that their countrymen, people like Chris Marker and Alain Resnais, were making filmic equivalents?

Whatever the answer, The Voyeur is a perfect example of one of these weird French things, written by the primary theorist of the nouvea
Brent Legault
Jun 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 12, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: recent-books
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
Madhulika Liddle
May 15, 2021 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Mathias is a salesman of watches who goes to the island where he grew up, to sell watches over the course of one day. He has an overly ambitious schedule for selling the watches, but even though he goes about the island, on a chromium-plated rented cycle, he achieves little. A very wild girl (is she Violet? Is she Jacqueline?) vanishes and is found dead, washed up by the sea. There are sea gulls. There are spider crabs. And various mysterious women who say little (or little in comparison to the ...more
James Tingle
Apr 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

This was the second book I read by this author after the very well written Jealousy, and I would say that I like this one about as much. A watch seller decides to take a ferry across to a little island off the mainland, desperate to sell his collection in the space of that day, as he really needs the money. Once he gets to the island, he hires a bike to get around so he can attempt to sell some watches and this is where everything slowly unravels for him. Without giving anything away, its the se
Jun 07, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don’t read a lot of fiction; this was weird and wild and eerie enough to intrigue me. Like a Calvino or a Perec or Everett or who knows what.
Isabella Gutierrez
Apr 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
I read this for a class in French Cinema and Literature. While I was reading it to study for the mid-term we had, I found that reading this book was actually fun. Not only did the author do a great job at keeping you feeling disoriented, and slightly confused at everything, but at the end, when you take a step back, you're not sure if you even read the book, or it was all in your head. At least that's what I experienced. The book does such a good job of keeping you just as disoriented as the pro ...more
Feb 20, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, french
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
Dec 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Oct 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This was the breakthrough in the nouvelle roman, an attempt to shake up the fusty world of social realism with a little existential and intertextual derring-do. The tale is oh-so-simple: a wristwatch salesman (Mathias) comes back to the island he was born on and left, making calculations of how many watches he can sell during his day there. He misses the boat back. Meanwhile, a girl has been murdered or had an accident. Did Mathias "do it"?

Anyone cringing at the thought of a possible spoiler eme
May 24, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lit
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
Oct 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013, somewhere-else

Line of grey water. Iron rings submerge in waves. Series of lines, connecting, network of curves, angles. Shortcut to the cottages, all the same, one-story, single window. Only four miles long. Keep to schedule. Knock on wooden door, knock again with ring. Enter, first door on the right. New oilcloth on table. Press the clasps. Open the suitcase, remove the cardboard strips. Waterproof, shockproof.

Figure eight of cord, greasy. String collection, the cupboard not locked, empty. Chromium-plated bi
Krocht Ehlundovič
My edition:
In Czech: Hana Jovanovičová
PH: Pragma Hodkovičky
218 pages

I did not know what to expect. I have read Un Roman Sentimental and it was a shock for me; a massive decomposition of morals and ethics. A brute and natural style (I liked the translation) supporting the story, naked body, bacchanalians feasting... This one, the Voyeur is like a puzzle: slightly mixed parts - happenings and text together, past before future - and your mind was in turbulence. Story about a tragic hawker - a s
Sep 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mainstream, read_2011
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
Bailey Coleman
Jan 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
My world literature professor assigned this my first semester at university. I thought I loved reading. This book made me question that. I didn't realize I only knew how to read books that were straight-forward and a distinct beginning, middle, and end. Fortunately my professor was absolutely incredible, and to this day it's my favorite college class. The Voyeur is a challenging piece, but it's worth the read! ...more
Mar 22, 2017 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
I am re-reading this book that has made a lasting impression on me, from when I first read it as a child. I am reading an old Éditions de Minuit edition, en français, which I have had since 1965, not the "kindle" edition. It is an amazing book. ...more
Glass River
Sep 05, 2020 marked it as fic-guided
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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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. 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 bo

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