A series of sketches and observations of daily life – a crowd gathering in front of shop windows, an old man talking to his grandchild about death, a professor lecturing about Proust and Rimbaud, a woman concealing her disdain at a family gathering – Nathalie Sarraute’s first work of fiction places human existence under the microscope, revealing the dynamics at play between our thoughts and actions beneath the veneer of social convention.
First published in 1939 to little fanfare, Tropisms was ahead of its time and finally received the recognition it deserved when it was republished in 1957 at the height of the nouveau roman movement, of which it is now considered a precursor.
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Sarraute has cracked open the ‘smooth and hard’ surface of the traditional characters in order to discover the endless vibrations of moods and sentiments, the tremors of a never-ending series of earthquakes in the microcosm of the self.
Born in Russia, Nathalie Sarraute (1900–99) moved as a child to Paris, where she later trained as a lawyer, before devoting herself to literature and becoming one of the figureheads of the nouveau roman movement.