Posted by: Jeanie F | November 12, 2010

Literary Blog Hop – November 11 – 14

This week’s Blog Hop question, posted by The Blue Bookcase, is:

What is the most difficult literary work you’ve ever read? What made it so difficult?

I love it when a question is easy to answer! Without a doubt, the most difficult novel – literary or otherwise – that I’ve ever read is In the Labyrinth by Alain Robbe-Grillet. This was an assignment in a college World Literature class, and although I read it in 1969, I’ve never forgotten the book nor the struggle it was to read.

Robbe-Grillet was a pioneer of the “new novel” (noveau roman) of the 1950s. It was his contention that the writer should avoid psychological or ideological analysis, but use an impersonal description of physical objects and allow the reader to guess what hides under details and events.

The “plot” of In the Labyrinth (and I use the term, “plot,” loosely) is of a soldier following a boy to meet someone to whom he will deliver a box. None of the characters are named, and scenes and actions are continuously repeated – sometimes word for word – in a labyrinthine manner. It is hard to tell what is real and what might be a dream. The narration shifts throughout the story between the soldier and the boy and, just to make it more confusing, is unreliable. I found it impossible to tell whether anything I read was really happening, was a hallucination, a flashback, or a lie.

It’s possible that now, as a more mature reader, I might be able to understand what I was reading. Frankly, I’m not curious enough about this to test the theory. In fact, just thinking about In the Labyrinth has inspired me to download Stephen King’s latest – Full Dark, No Stars – onto my Kindle!


  1. Wow, that sounds like an impossible book. But as you say, maybe by now you would find it easier.

    Sounds to me the sort of book that is really only appreciated by Literature students that want to read all kinds of different genres out of interest.

  2. I have read a lot of classics in my school and college years. And some still remain my favorites. However, there are a few I could never get into..

    Here is my Literary Blog Hop post!

  3. Ooh, this book sounds really complicated, hard, and awesome! I’ve learned about the nouveau roman so many times in school but I’ve never actually read one.

    Thanks for participating in our Hop!!

    • Ingrid, I wouldn’t recommend it, unless you really enjoy a reading challenge. I will say that having read Labyrinth gave me a sense of accomplishment, and a good teacher helped me understand it. Don’t know if I could have finished it if (1) it wasn’t an assignment, and (2) the professor hadn’t really walked us through it. However, it did make my Faulkner seminar seem like a walk in the park!

  4. It’s hard to tell whether or not I would like that kind of book. Hmm… I’m also excited to try Stephen King’s latest. Hope you enjoy it 🙂

    • To my way of thinking, Stephen King is the ANTI-Robbe-Grillet!

  5. I can safely say I won’t be trying that one any time soon 😉

  6. I read a book by Robbe-Grillet a long time ago. He is quite the experimental writer. I ‘m thinking of reading more of such this coming and will add this book to the list. Thanks!

  7. The Erasers is the only one of his I’ve read & that is superficially a detective novel, but that doesn’t say much. enjoyed your write up & it reminded me of a writer I’d forgotten about.

  8. That sounds AWFUL!!

    This was a fun question to answer. My pick was Finnegans Wake.

    Rose City Reader

  9. It must be horrible if it still gives you the shakes after forty-one years!

    Here’s my post:

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