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An antinovel is any experimental work of fiction that avoids the familiar conventions of the novel. The term was coined by the French philosopher and critic Jean-Paul Sartre.

The antinovel usually fragments and distorts the experience of its characters, forcing the reader to construct the reality of the story from a disordered narrative.

The best-known anti-novelist is Alain Robbe-Grillet, author of Le Voyeur.

Notable examples of antinovels are Report on Probability A by Brian Aldiss, Hopscotch by Julio Cortázar and Yo-Yo Boing! by Giannina Braschi.


Origin of the term

The term ("anti-roman" in French) was brought into modern literary discourse by the French philosopher and critic Jean-Paul Sartre in his introduction to Nathalie Sarraute's 1948 work Portrait d’un inconnu (Portrait of a Man Unknown). However the term "anti-roman" (anti-novel) had been used by Charles Sorel in 1633 to describe the parodic nature of his prose fiction Le Berger extravagant[1].


Although the term is most commonly applied to the French nouveau roman of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, similar traits can be found much further back in literary history. One example is Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy, a seemingly autobiographical novel that barely makes it as far as the title character's birth thanks to numerous digressions and a rejection of linear chronology.

Aron Kibédi Varga has suggested that the novel in fact began as an anti-novel, since the first novels such as Don Quixote subverted their form even as they were constructing the form of the novel.

Jean Rousset, in the most frequently reprinted essay in Flaubert criticism, insists on Flaubert's desire to compose Madame Bovary as "a book about nothing." (see "Madame Bovary ou le livre sur rien" in Forme et signification.)

« Ce qui me semble beau, ce que je voudrais faire, c’est un livre sur rien, un livre sans attache extérieure, qui se tiendrait de lui-même par la force interne de son style, comme la terre sans être soutenue se tient en l’air, un livre qui n’aurait presque pas de sujet ou du moins où le sujet serait presque invisible, si cela se peut. Les œuvres les plus belles sont celles où il y a le moins de matière. […] C’est pour cela qu’il n’y a ni beaux ni vilains sujets et qu’on pourrait presque établir comme axiome, en se plaçant au point de vue de l’Art pur, qu’il n’y en a aucun, le style étant à lui seul une manière absolue de voir les choses. » a letter to Louise Colet, January 16th, 1852, emphasis mine
" What I think fine, what I should like to write, is a book about nothing, a book without external connections, which would hold together by the internal force of its style, as the earth without being underpropped hangs in the air ; a book well-nigh devoid of subject or at least with an almost invisible subject, if that is possible. The most beautiful works are those with least substance ; the nearer expression comes to thought, the more closely the word fastens upon it and disappears into it, the more beauty there is." Art and Life (1910) by Thomas Sturge Moore[2]


Examples of antinovels are:

See also

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