Reading Nathalie Sarraute: Dialogue and Distance

By Emer O'Beirne | Go to book overview

4
READING AND OTHERNESS

The readings of Enfance and Tu ne t'aimes pas in Chapters 2 and 3 dealt with the way their textual dialogues, being located within the authorial self, point up the insufficiency of a singular discourse when it comes to articulating the truth of that self (a predicament associated in Chapter I with Romantic irony). I have set this dimension of Sarraute's writing in the context of the Lacanian understanding of dialogue as alone permitting the constitution of the subject's truth. This conception of dialogue is also prominent within the field of narrative theory: the Bakhtin/ Voloshinov school has demonstrated (with particular attention to Dostoevsky) the tendency within modern fiction to favour ever more unmediated representation of characters' discourses and their productive interaction over an omniscient narrative perspective which would translate these into its own, necessarily limited terms.1

None the less, we have seen how a singular authorial discourse reasserts itself in the internal dialogues of Enfance and Tu ne t'aimes pas, along with the singular identity informed by that discourse. This re-emergence of a claim to speaker-authority out of its ostensible dissolution enacts, I have argued, the way all language use turns its subject into a moi, and, being motivated by a particular expressive intention (even if that intention is to articulate an ironic scepticism regarding expression), is unable consciously to overcome its own monologism. (It will still, of course, retain the unintentionally dialogic quality of being formed out of other discourses.) Thus the establishment of a transindividual dialogic truth will only take place in the context of this conscious monologism. Moreover, I have suggested that the alienation of the linguistic utterance from its intentional source (see Derrida 1967b, 1972) may lead speakers-- and even more so writers--to attempt to ensure that their intention is recognized by implicitly projecting that recognition onto their

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Sarraute too admires the way Dostoevsky forgoes authorial analysis to let his characters themselves express 'ces mouvements subtils, à peine perceptibles [...] des ébauches d'appels timides et de reculs' ( ES33) which accompany their ongoing struggle to 'se frayer un chemin jusqu'à autrui'(p. 37).

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Reading Nathalie Sarraute: Dialogue and Distance
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgements v
  • Contents vii
  • Abbreviations viii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1- Irony, Dialogue, and the Novel 10
  • 2- The Writing Self: Irony And Authority 49
  • 3- The Self and Language: Authenticity and Convention 93
  • 4- Reading and Otherness 137
  • 5- Reading in Theory and Practice 181
  • Conclusion Ici-From Language to Silence And Back 221
  • Bibliography 236
  • Index 255
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