Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Jean Echenoz

From: E.Borgers (
Date: 01 May 2004

I totally agree with Duane, about Echenoz :" his work can be entertaining if you're in the right mood for it." and you better be in a very good mood. I personally do not really enjoy his novels (at least the two I read) and have the impression his modernity, deconstruction and post-modern bazaar leads him (and the reader) to the Big Emptiness... His French novels were published from day one by "Les Editions de Minuit", which always harbored avant-garde French lit, including the debuts of the big names of the "nouveau roman" like Robbe-Grillet, Claude Simon, Michel Butor... during the fifties. They all published their complete novels corpus with this publishing house (founded during the last years of WW2). As you know, the major benefit of this "nouveau roman" approach was to destroy the form of classic novels and their structure, and exploring freer ways of narration. At the time it was a good shaking up of the French lit novel that was close to sclerosis. But 30 years later a young writer like Echenoz applied again a very similar approach , in his way, with no real value added and with formal "deformation" that were vastly d骠 vu! Plus a little bit of "distancing". But (IMHO) he benefited of the "guarantee" of innovation and quality that was attached to his publisher reputation...

Now, back to our black sheep... The confusion about Echenoz and noir, comes from one of his very first novels : CHEROKEE (1983) in which he mimics some forms of noir and mystery lit, but it was more an attempt to mock it and to deconstruct. He applied the same treatment to two other pop lit genres": the spy novel LAC- 1989) and the "adventure novel" (L'EQUIPEE MALAISE- 1987). He's definitely not noir and not belonging to that sphere.

I personally do not consider that sweeping off the "typographical" forms of all dialogues and diluting them in endless paragraphs with the narrative, brings anything new to a novel or is rare innovation. I stopped to read the last one I tried ( "JE M'EN VAIS" 1999) after 80 pages: the trick was going on through the whole text...


- Duane Spurlock: Echenoz won't be to everyone's taste on this list. His novels tend to the French version of post-modern meandering, not the spare hard-boiled prose that seems most appreciated by members here. But his work can be entertaining if you're in the right mood for it.

>"Grimes" <> wrote:
>...And then when I searched the archives, the only
>referenceto Echenoz I found was from 1999 by Mark
>Sullivan, who in response to a query about French
>noir available in the U.S. wrote, "Jean Echenoz
>doesn't really count as noir, does he?"
>Five years later, does anyone have anything to add?

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