The Planetarium

(Fiction; Dalkey Archive Press, 2005)

In a brief burst of generosity, Alain’s Aunt Berthe offers to trade apartments with Alain and his wife and move into their small, cramped flat, but immediately she regrets her whim and takes back the offer, infuriating the young couple.

This is not the starting point of The Planetarium, Nathalie Sarraute’s 1959 nouveau roman, but the plot in its entirety, the deceptively simple narrative thread with which Sarraute weaves an intricate study in resentment, identity, and ego. Sartre declared her earlier novel Portrait of a Man Unknown to be an “antinovel,” and The Planetarium, whose plot turns not on narrative events but on the constantly moving targets of its characters’ perceptions, takes the same experimental approach to the genre.

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