Type of avant-garde novel that departs from traditional novelistic conventions by ignoring such elements as plot, dialogue, and human interest. Seeking to overcome readers' habits and challenge their expectations, antinovelists deliberately avoid any intrusion of authorial personality, preferences, or values. Though the term was coined by Jean-Paul Sartre in 1948, the approach is at least as old as the works of the 18th-century writer Laurence Sterne. Writers of such works include Nathalie Sarraute, Claude Simon, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Uwe Johnson, and Rayner Heppenstall.
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The nouveau roman (French: "new novel") is a type of 1950s French novel that diverged from classical literary genres. Émile Henriot coined the title in an article in the popular French newspaper Le Monde on May 22, 1957 to describe certain writers who experimented with style in each novel, creating an essentially new style each time.
Alain Robbe-Grillet, an influential theorist as well as writer of the nouveau roman, published a series of essays on the nature and future of the novel which were later collected in Pour un nouveau roman. Rejecting many of the established features of the novel to date, Robbe-Grillet regarded many earlier novelists as old-fashioned in their focus on plot, action, narrative, ideas, and character. Instead, he put forward a theory of the novel as focused on objects: the ideal nouveau roman would be an individual version and vision of things, subordinating plot and character to the details of the world rather than enlisting the world in their service.
Despite the assertions of nouveauté, this vision of the novel can be construed as developing from earlier writers' suggestions and practice. Joris-Karl Huysmans, ninety years before, had suggested how the novel might be depersonalised; more recently, Franz Kafka had shown that conventional methods of depicting character were not essential; James Joyce had done the same for plot; and absurdist writers had engaged with some of the themes which preoccupied writers of the nouveau roman.
The nouveau roman style also left its mark on screen as writers Marguerite Duras and Alain Robbe-Grillet became involved with the Left Bank film movement (often labelled as part of the French new wave). Their collaboration with director Alain Resnais resulted in critical successes such as Hiroshima, Mon Amour (1958) and Last Year at Marienbad (1961). They would later go on to direct their own films.