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La plage

La plage

Author Alain Robbe-Grillet
Title La plage
Year 1962

Alain Robbe Grillet (1922-2008) was a French author, one of the leading figures in the nouveau roman literary movement, and since 2004 member of the Académie française. His best-known novels are Le Voyeur and La Jalousie. Robbe-Grillet also wrote short stories and screenplays, including L’Année dernière à Marienbad (Last year at Marienbad). He passed away today at the age of 85.

La plage (The beach) is a story from the collection Instantanés, published in 1962. I’m not aware of any translation of this collection, but an English translation of La plage is available in Penguin Parallel Text: French Short Stories 1

The story is a prime example of the nouveau roman style. Like his best novels, it’s full of repetition, and each repetition reveals more details. It’s a simple story, about three children walking along the beach (and that’s about all there is to the plot). The three children are introduced as about the same height and age, one of them slightly smaller. In the first repetition, we find out they are blond, sunburnt, and also dressed alike: Shorts and shirts. A few pages later, we learn a few new details in the next repetition:

Leurs trois visages halés, plus foncés que les cheveux, se ressemblent. L’expression en est la même: sérieuse, réfléchie, préoccupée peut-être. Leurs traits aussi sont identiques, bien que, visiblement, deux de ces enfants sont des garçons et le troisième une fille. […] Mais le costume est tout à fait la même: culotte courte et chemisette, l’une et l’autre en grosse toile d’un bleu délavé.

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