Jardin des Plantes by Claude Simon
A Novel

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Since his international breakthrough with 1960's La Route des Flandres, Claude Simon has captivated readers worldwide with his relentless examination of interior life - in particular his own. Breaking from realistic narrative, obsessed with the power (and betrayals) of memory, The Jardin des Plantes is nothing less than an inquiry into what creates each of us. While admitting that there are defining moments in one's life - eight days of battle during World War II was Simon's unforgettable experience - The Jardin des Plantes rings with his refusal to be defined by any single event. His thoughts show the complexity, the fabulous chaos, that makes up the experience of life for Simon and, he insists, for all thinking human beings. These memories - whether everyday minutiae or passages from novels or the staggering experiences of war and death - unreel like films, constantly replaying or stopping and starting according to the whimsical or terrifying nature of his experiences. The juxtapositions may hold meaning, or be nothing more a than a trick of the mind. What is important is that each memory has a place in his mind and each has an effect on his self and the way he projects that self to others. Simon has grappled with the great themes of twentieth-century literature throughout his career. The Jardin des Plantes is a complex novel that demands much, a novel that challenges the reader to question the construction of the self and the life experiences that create us.

About Claude Simon

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Claude Simon was born on October 10,1913 in Antananarivo, Madagascar. He is a French novelist who is often identified with the nouveau roman movement exemplified in the works of Alain Robbe-Grillet and Michel Butor. His fragmented narratives certainly contain some of the formal disruption characteristic of that movement especially Triptyque from 1973. However he retains a strong sense of narrative and character. In fact, Simon has much more in common with his Modernist predecessors than with his contemporaries; in particular, the works of Marcel Proust and William Faulkner are a clear influence. Claude Simon creates a universe dominated by fatality and pervaded with doom. His heroes are outsiders like Meursault and testify to Simon's leaning toward the philosophy of the absurd. Simon makes great use of the interior monologue and consciously maintains a single point of view in his novels. In The Flanders Road (1960), three French POWs in a German camp pass the time by recalling and analyzing incidents, trivial and otherwise, in great detail. The reader receives their memories in a quasi--stream-of-consciousness hodge-podge of confusing scenes and syntax. Of The Palace (1962), Henri Peyre wrote: "Nothing happens in this novel, made up of shadowy dialogues and Proustian reminiscences. . . . The chief concern of the novelist, who no longer relates a story or presents images of real people, is to devise a language which may be true to his purely subjective vision." Claude Simon was the 1985 Nobel Laureate in Literature. He died in Paris France in July 2005. Richard Howard was born in Cleveland, Ohio on October 13, 1929. He received a B.A. from Columbia University in 1951 and studied at the Sorbonne as a Fellow of the French Government in 1952-1953. He briefly worked as a lexicographer, but soon turned his attention to poetry and poetic criticism. His works include Trappings: New Poems; Like Most Revelations: New Poems; Selected Poems; No Traveler; Findings; Alone with America; and Quantities. He won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1969 for Untitled Subjects. He is also a translator and published more than 150 translations from the French. He received the PEN Translation Prize in 1976 for his translation of E. M. Cioran's A Short History of Decay and the American Book Award for his 1983 translation of Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du Mal. In 1982, he was named a Chevalier of L'Ordre National du Mérite by the government of France. He teaches in the Writing Division of the School of the Arts, Columbia University.
Published November 7, 2001 by Northwestern University Press. 288 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Jardin des Plantes

The New York Times

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The key to the French novelist and Nobel laureate Claude Simon's complex novel, ''The Jardin des Plantes,'' lies in this sentence about halfway through the book: ''From that moment on there will simultaneously occur several events which, despite or perhaps precisely because of their apparent inco...

Feb 03 2002 | Read Full Review of Jardin des Plantes: A Novel

Publishers Weekly

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Simon won the Nobel in 1985, some years after the nouveau roman's coldly cinematic—yet engagingly torturous—life had ended, and 25 years after the publication of Simon's masterwork, The Flanders Road.

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