Sarraute, Nathalie

Sarraute, Nathalie
orig. Nathalie Ilyanova Tcherniak

born July 18, 1900, Ivanova, Russia
died Oct. 19, 1999, Paris, France

French novelist and essayist.

She practiced law until с 1940, when she became a full-time writer. Tropismes (1939), a collection of sketches, introduced her idea of tropisms, the "things that are not said and the movements that cross our consciousness very rapidly." An early practitioner and leading theorist of the nouveau roman ("new novel"), the French antinovel, she discarded conventions of plot, chronology, characterization, and point of view. Her novels
including Portrait of a Man Unknown (1948), Martereau (1953), Le planétarium (1959), and Here (1997)
and her plays focus on the unspoken "subconversations" in human interactions.

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▪ 2000

      French novelist and essayist (b. July 18, 1900, Ivanovo, Russia—d. Oct. 19, 1999, Paris, France), was at the forefront of the literary movement christened nouveau roman. The title of her first novel, Tropismes (1939 and 1957; Tropisms, 1963), was a term she borrowed from botany that referred to the movements observed in plants in response to stimuli. She used “tropisms” to relate the small but intense feelings within the consciousness—a general uneasiness or perhaps a momentary sensation of sadness or euphoria—in response to intangible outside elements. Her second novel, Portrait d'un inconnu (1948; Portrait of a Man Unknown,1958), boasted a preface written by Jean-Paul Sartre, who dubbed the work an antinovel owing to its lack of the essential ingredients of the conventional novel—plot and description of full-bodied characters. Instead, her works relied on internal dialogues that included conversations that were secondary to the silences, gestures, or repetitions that occurred. Many of her later novels were completely devoid of characters. She was born Natalya Ilyevna Chernyak. Following her parents' divorce, when she was two, she lived with her mother in Geneva, Paris, and St. Petersburg before settling permanently in Paris. After attending the University of Oxford (1921), Sarraute graduated (1925) with a licence from the University of Paris, Sorbonne. Before becoming a full-time writer, she was a member (1926–41) of the French bar. In 1956 she exploded onto the literary scene with her essay L'Ère du soupƈon (1956; The Age of Suspicion, 1963), in which she detailed her views on the traditional novel, and became one of the leading exponents, along with Alain Robbe-Grillet, Claude Simon, and Robert Pinget, of the nouveau roman school. Other works include Elle est là (1978), L'Usage de la parole (1980), and an autobiography, Enfance (1983).

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▪ French author
née  Nathalie Ilyanova Tcherniak 
born July 18, 1900, Ivanova, Russia
died Oct. 19, 1999, Paris, France

      French novelist and essayist, one of the earliest practitioners and a leading theorist of the nouveau roman, the French post-World War II “new novel,” or “antinovel (New Novel),” a phrase applied by Jean-Paul Sartre (Sartre, Jean-Paul) to Sarraute's Portrait d'un inconnu (1947; Portrait of a Man Unknown). She was one of the most widely translated and discussed of the nouveau roman school. Her works reject the “admirable implements” forged by past realistic novelists such as Honoré de Balzac (Balzac, Honoré de), particularly the use of biographical description to create full-bodied characters.

      Sarraute was two years old when her parents were divorced, and her mother took her to Geneva and then to Paris. Except for brief visits to Russia and an extended stay in St. Petersburg (1908–10), she lived in Paris thereafter, and French was her first language. She attended the University of Oxford (1921) and graduated with a licence from the University of Paris, Sorbonne (1925); she was a member of the French bar, 1926–41, until she became a full-time writer.

      Sarraute challenged the mystique of the traditional novel in her theoretical essay L'Ère du soupçon (1956; The Age of Suspicion) and experimented with technique in Tropismes (1939 and 1957; Tropisms), her first collection of sketches. In this work she introduced the notion of “tropisms,” a term borrowed from botany and meaning elemental impulses alternately attracted and repelled by each other. Sarraute described these impulses as imperceptible motions at the origin of our attitudes and actions, and forming the substrata of such feelings as envy, love, hate, or hope. Within this aggregate of minute stirrings, Sarraute portrays a tyrannical father pushing his aging daughter into marriage (Portrait d'un inconnu), an elderly lady enamoured of furniture (Le Planétarium, 1959; The Planetarium), and a literary coterie reacting to a newly published novel (Les Fruits d'or, 1963; The Golden Fruits). Later works include Elle est là (1978; “She Is There”), L'Usage de la parole (1980; “The Usage of Speech”), and an autobiography, Enfance (1983; Childhood).

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Universalium. 2010.

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