Jealousy that I read a few pages of in the early-80s. She loved French authors - Gide, Maupassant, de Beauvoir etc, to the point of quoting them in letters she wrote to me before the flame of love flickered out. I was so heartbroken I burned all those letters.
Yes, she loved her French authors, more than she loved me, ultimately, but I can understand devotion to strangers whose prose gives us such pleasure. We get their finest thoughts, and none of their nasty habits. They don't argue back, and if we disagree with them we can simply close the book. Robbe-Grillet's always been about bananas since I read part of Jealousy. The forensic voyeurism of the narrator means that banana trees are decribed in great detail towards the beginning.
'In the second row, starting from the far left, there would be twenty-two tress (because of the alternate arrangement) in the case of a rectangular patch....But the third row too has only twenty-two trees, instead of twenty-three...The bulge of the bank also begins to take effect starting from the fifth row; this row, as a matter of fact, also possesses only twenty-one trees, whereas it should have twenty-two for a true trapezoid and twenty-three for a rectangle (uneven row).' And so on.
I'm amazed that I didn't finish the novel. But guess what I bought second-hand the other week? Yes, Jealousy, because it's a nice, clean Oneworld Classics edition. More than that, I was determined to see if the Changed Reader theory would apply to me and this book. After all, thirty years ago I was a different reader, and possibly a different person. Could it really be as boring as I remembered it? Did Robbe-Grillet really spend as much time on banana trees as I remembered? Could I not appreciate the master of the Nouveau Roman now that I was older, if not wiser? Perhaps. I have yet to start it.
I once watched the girl who read Robbe-Grillet through the window of a third-floor flat. She was saying goodbye to a boy she worked with. They kissed before parting. I recognised that kind of kiss. Still, I could not be justifiably jealous. By that time I too was seeing someone else. So it goes, and so I went bananas when she said we were over.