Recollections of the Golden Triangle by Alain Robbe-Grillet
Review by S. D. Stewart
This is another of Robbe-Grillet’s collage novels, assembled from some of his existing texts. Less subtle in its sinister mystery than predecessor novel Topology of a Phantom City, it nonetheless treads familiar ground as that novel, concerned as it is with the murder of an adolescent girl, possibly by mistake, or as a ritual sacrifice, or not at all, for it’s possible it was only a performance.
Two main differences between these books are the narration style and the details of the sadistic eroticism that is portrayed, be it ‘real’, acted out, or imagined. Here, the itinerant narrator (participant, observer, suspect, investigator, or all of the above) is more present, frequently breaking the spell cast by R-G’s hypnotic prose, and as such, acting as more of an intrusion than a curiosity. The narrator also adopts a more bemused role than in Topology, occasionally expressing befuddlement at the structure of the constantly shifting and recreating narrative. The levity generated by these moments yields somewhat of a dampening effect on R-G’s ever-expanding fictional forays into sadism and erotic fetishism. However, the erotic elements of the narrative and the proclivities of the ‘characters’, described as they always are in flat, clinical language, are much more detailed and lurid here than in Topology, resulting in a substantial loss of the hazy, obscure atmosphere found in that earlier novel. It is almost as if, over a period of novels, R-G was slowly losing (or purposively releasing) his restraint in showcasing what could be read (and have been alluded by him in interviews to be) his own fantasies.
Regardless of how one chooses to interpret this aspect of R-G’s writing, it is now presented here so boldly as to become the over-exposed centerpiece, whereas in Topology and the much earlier novel The Voyeur, it was the suspense of fragmented allusions to it that drove much of the narrative. On a broader scale, the process by which R-G keeps the reader in the dark as to what is actually happening or imagined to be happening or dreamed to be happening has become more defined in this novel, less evasive in its resistance to categorization. While it’s possible that this effect is due, at least in part, to the nature of the collaged texts and the assemblage techniques used, this does not alter the fact that, to this reader at least, it renders the final text less imbued with mystery, and therefore less captivating.