ICI-FROM LANGUAGE TO SILENCE AND BACK
Nathalie Sarraute's writing, both as a representation of a fictional world and as an authorial address to a reader, places enormous emphasis on the act of communication, the anxiety and distress caused by its repeated failure, and the tenacity with which, faced with this failure, human beings constantly attempt anew to establish contact. Yet if this consistent focus seems to manifest a belief in dialogue as the completion of one's own limited point of view on the world by that of another, this impression is contradicted by how both the represented dialogues and the Sarrautean address to the reader actually function. While the response of an independent other is certainly sought, it is sought only in so far as it might ideally (if never in reality) be identical with the addressor's own outlook. Thus the ideal Sarrautean dialogue is one where response would be entirely affirmative, neutralizing its otherness by doubling the speaker's own perspective.
It is an ideal which remains remarkably constant throughout Sarraute's writing career, even while its unattainability becomes ever more explicitly acknowledged. In section v of Ici ( 1995) it is a fantasized alternative to the reality of non-communication (where the other refuses to accept that the infinite Sarrautean self--here identified simply as 'ici'--really experiences certain feelings). Yet the very terms in which such perfect communication is dreamt of here make its impossibility evident, for it is shown to rest on a view of language which ignores the complex process of interpretation. Instead, for Sarraute, language must ideally be a simple code (though still 'secreted' organically by its referent), capable of transmitting the speaker's idea exactly to the hearer without the slightest alteration:1
Ce qui sans lui ne se serait pas montré, des mots ne l'auraient pas enveloppé pour le porter chez lui et l'implanter . . . pour que ça puisse rester chez lui tel que c'était