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Alain Robbe-Grillet, Glissements progressifs du plaisir (Successive Slidings of Pleasure), 1974, color film in 35 mm, 105 minutes. Production stills. © Fonds Alain Robbe-Grillet/Archives IMEC.

SHORTLY BEFORE he passed away, Alain Robbe-Grillet was still thumbing his nose at society. His last published work, Un Roman sentimental (A Sentimental Novel, 2007), which he called a “fairy tale for adults,” describes young schoolgirls subjected to the worst sexual abuses—this in and for a paranoid France that detects a pedophile in any male teacher. Indeed, Robbe-Grillet made a habit of using his reputation as a great writer and his image as the learned representative of the nouveau roman to trigger the most extreme provocations. He often played around like a naughty boy. He and I were once invited to a conference in Bilbao, in Spanish Basque country, a region that is, as we know, stirred by nationalism, especially cultural nationalism. It was here that he calmly told a journalist who was interviewing him for television that there were no great writers in the Basque language.

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