RECOLLECTIONS OF THE GOLDEN TRIANGLE by Alain Robbe-Grillet; translated by J. A. Underwood (Grove: $19.95 hardcover; $6.95 paperback; 157 pp.). Alain Robbe-Grillet occupied the center of the French literary scene from 1950-1975 with his attempt to redefine the novel--indeed, he came to represent the revolutionary "new novel" in France. In his early novels, "The Voyeur," "Jealousy," "Project for a Revolution in New York"; in his screenplay, "Last Year at Marienbad"; and in his seminal collection of essays, "For a New Novel," he questioned the traditional assumptions of the novel. Does the novel represent reality? In what seems to be a parody of the realistic attempt to give an objective description of reality, Robbe-Grillet describes, for example, a tomato slice, detailing the patterns of its white veins and seeds, the slight defects on its thick, homogenous skin. Why this fascination with a tomato slice or with other seemingly insignificant, inanimate objects? Robbe-Grillet is less interested in the object described than in the mind that is obsessively focused on it, projecting patterns that correspond to the observer's psychological state.
In Robbe-Grillet's most recently translated novel, "Recollections of the Golden Triangle," the narrator describes a series of objects that point to the murder of several young girls. The objects are described in ways that are mysteriously connected to the shape of a triangle. The prevalence of geometrical shapes and minutely described objects reveal his characters as arbitrary constructs created by language. In addition to rejecting the traditional notion of character, Robbe-Grillet also repudiates the notion of a linear, readable plot. Bereft of the traditional staples of the novel--character, plot, imitation of reality--one is left with intellectual plays on language.