‘La Jalousie’ (Jealousy) by Alain Robbe-Grillet – A Suspicious Husband


‘La Jalousie’ (Jealousy) by Alain Robbe-Grillet     (1957) – 106 pages             Translated from the French by Richard Howard


Alain Robbe-Grillet was a French author and film maker who was one of the main practitioners of the Nouveau Roman literary movement in the 1950s. The main purpose of the Nouveau Roman movement was to subvert the traditional narrative and plot structures of novels. It was a welcome bold experiment with the fundamentals of fiction.

The French title ‘La Jalousie’ is a play on words that can be translated as “jealousy” but also as “the jalousie window”. In the novel, the narrator is a jealous husband, a tropical planter on a banana plantation, who spies on his wife A… through the jalousie window of their house. He suspects his wife of having an affair with his neighbor Franck.

The bedroom window – the one nearest the hallway – opens outward. The upper part of A…’s body is framed within it. She says “Hello” in the playful tone of someone who has slept well and awakened in a good mood; or of someone who prefers not to show what she is thinking about – if anything – and always flashes the same smile, which can be interpreted as derision just as well as affection, or the total absence of any feeling whatever.”

What makes this novel different is that we see only what this obsessed jealous husband sees. Since he is so obsessed with his wife and his neighbor’s carrying ons, we never get an objective view of events.

He watches his wife and his neighbor interact through that jalousie window, and he becomes extremely jealous. He becomes obsessed with a squashed centipede that Franck had smashed with his hand and is still sticking to the wall. When the neighbor Franck drives our narrator’s wife in to town so she can do some shopping and the two stay overnight our husband’s suspicions know no bounds.

Franck has driven A… into town so she can run some errands. However Franck’s car, his new blue sedan has broken down. They must stay in town. The next afternoon when the three are having drinks, Franck said he was sorry he had given A… that night “in that miserable hotel”.

And now Franck and A… plan another trip into town. Will they return at a reasonable time this time or will they again be forced to stay overnight?

We get lengthy meticulously detailed descriptions of the house construction carpentry and appearance and the smashed centipede staining the carpentry. These lengthy descriptions are somewhat annoying and frustrating for the readers, but they are probably what this guy occupies his mind with as he waits for his wife A… and Franck to return.

These long stretches of less than scintillating prose are probably why the nouveau roman is not popular today. Let’s just say the nouveau roman is quite old now. Otherwise it is a quite captivating and moving scenario.


Grade:    B




3 responses to this post.

  1. I’ve read a few books from the PoV of someone who’s obsessed about something. The first few are fascinating, but then it wears thin, as it does in real life if you have to put up with someone who’s obsessed about something.
    (I don’t mean obsession as in mental illness, I just mean someone who’s got a bee in his/her bonnet so that they go on and on about whatever it is all the time.)

    Liked by 1 person


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