Reading Nathalie Sarraute: Dialogue and Distance

By Emer O'Beirne | Go to book overview

5
READING IN THEORY AND PRACTICE

Sarraute's attitude to the reader is, as we have seen, a highly complex one: while the amount of attention her work gives him makes clear that his cooperation is considered vital ('il ne m'est pas possible de m'en passer': EVM171), his ideal role in relation to the text seems limited to recognizing and acquiescing in its authority. The fact that her novels progressively abandon the representation of such an ideal reader may acknowledge at some level the impossibility of an addressee who on the one hand would be other enough for his affirmative response to have value, yet whose total approbation would deny that otherness. At the same time, Sarraute continues to write, presenting to her real, unknown readers the incapable addressees of L'Usage de la parole, followed by the self- sufficient internal dialogues of Enfance and Tu ne t'aimes pas, and the reflections of Ici on solitude and silence. Most recently, Ouvrez depicts communication as dominated by self-censorship, with the essence of the self closed off from public view. The title of this short work encapsulates the ambivalence of the later Sarraute's attitude to her readers: the imperative ' Ouvrez' is not in fact addressed to those who approach the book (or at least not explicitly), but by the population of one zone of the self to those in the other. Thus by responding to what we automatically assume is an invitation we become interlopers in the self's internal conversation; yet our presence 'backstage' in the self, if not openly welcomed or even acknowledged in any way which might reassure us as to the validity of our first reading of the title, is tacitly tolerated (see also Conclusion n. 14).

Sarraute's paradoxical persistence in articulating publicly a lack of faith in intersubjective communication suggests that on some level there endures the dream of that ideal reader who might emerge from the reading public and provide the desired total recognition of and adherence to the author's vision. I argued in Chapter 4 that this dream of a double is doomed to remain unrealized; to conclude this study of the Sarrautean text and the reader I wish now to consider the activity of reading Sarraute, not as her work depicts

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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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