Alain Robbe-Grillet, Why I Love Barthes

Polity publishes a new collection of essays on the French thinker
Roland Barthes
In this week's TLS, Neil Badmington reviews a selection of Alain Robbe-Grillet's writings on Roland Barthes. Entitled Why I Love Barthes, the book is edited by Olivier Corpet and translated by Andrew Brown:
This slim volume brings together four texts: a transcription of Alain Robbe-Grillet's talk and the ensuing discussion at the Cerisy conference devoted to Roland Barthes in 1977, and three shorter pieces from 1980, 1981 and 1995. There are internal echoes - anecdotes and phrases recur - and parts of the second chapter appeared in Robbe-Grillet's autobiographical Le Miroir qui revient in 1984.

Having announced his 'shady, suspicious' friendship with Barthes, Robbe-Grillet makes a point that resonates throughout the book: the appeal of Barthes's work lies in its slipperiness, in the way that it 'never stops abandoning positions that it pretends to have won'. Barthes was an eel, he continues, whose writings destroy 'all temptation of dogmatism', closure and certainty. This is no cause for concern: 'Truth', Robbe-Grillet declares, 'in the last analysis, has never served anything but oppression', and Barthes's refusal to be 'an intellectual guru who'd come along to deliver a truth, a message' recast him, for Robbe-Grillet, as a fellow novelist. (The penultimate chapter, from 1995, imagines Barthes alive and busy rewriting Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther.)

Neil Badmington, 'Alain Robbe-Grillet, Why I Love Barthes'
Times Literary Supplement, 21 October 2011
Also at A Piece of Monologue: