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Nathalie Sarraute: Les Fruits d’or (The Golden Fruits)

Sarraute’s fourth novel takes us back to the no plot, unnamed characters of her earlier novels. In this novel, there is not even a central narrator. Various people talk. We can tell (at least in the French text) that several of them are female as the adjectives have the feminine ending (not sure how this is done in the English version.) The plot, such as it is, concerns a novel called, of course, Les Fruits d’or (The Golden Fruits). We know little about this book, as regards its author and contents, except that it is a novel by someone called Bréhier. What we do know is how it is received and this changing reception over a period of time. Sarraute takes a group of unnamed people, who comment on the novel. Not only does she satirise their attitudes, they have different views of what the work is, so that we are unable to determine what it really is about. At one point eighteen different people, who are not named and impossible to identify, give their differing views on the novel but their views tend to the vague – it’s funny, it’s a great work of fiction – without actually why it is great or, indeed, what it is about. Of course, there is little basis for their views, except to show how smart they are. When the novel becomes popular, these same critics turn on the author who clearly stole his ideas and that his work is certainly not ground-breaking. And then it is forgotten. Despite the disembodied voices it works well both as a satire on critics as well as a fascinating approach with a book as the hero.

Publishing history

First published in 1963 by Gallimard
First English translation 1964 by Braziller
Translated by Maria Jolas