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TOM McCARTHY

THE OBITUARIES Alain Robbe-Grillet received in the British press depicted him as a significant but ultimately eccentric novelist, whose work forswore any attempt to be “believable” or to engage with the real world in a “realistic” way. In taking this line, the obituarists displayed an intellectual shortcoming typical of Anglo-American empiricism, and displayed it on two fronts: first, in their failure to understand that literary “realism” is itself a construct as laden with artifice as any other; and second, in missing the glaring fact that Robbe-Grillet’s novels are actually ultrarealist, shot through at every level with the sheer quiddity of the environments to which they attend so faithfully. What we see happening in them, again and again, is space and matter inscribing themselves on consciousness, whose task, reciprocally, is to accommodate space and matter. As Robbe-Grillet was himself

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