At some indeterminate point in time and space following World War II, George remembers telling Corinne the story he has told Blum. The discontinuous, contiguous rememberings and tellings--rememberings of tellings, tellings of rememberings--are the labyrinthine elements of George's searches for meanings: to his own life, to his ancestral identity, to the disastrous routing of French troops by German in May 1940, to the human condition. In the course of their textual wanderings, narrator and reader return again and again to specific scenes--trying to make sense of life and death, and the cardinal, corporal points between.


Death and dying, suicide, procreation and creation, interpersonal and intrafamilial relationships, identity, memory and time, are all classical themes of literature and medicine easily identified in The Flanders Road. However, the manner of representation, self-conscious and unruly in its temporal nonlinearity, perspectival multiplicity, and ontological and hermeneutical ambiguities, explodes the relatively comfortable classicism of most of the literature and medicine canon and its interpretation.

The reader of Claude Simon's novel is plunged immediately into the unruliness of reading the postmodernist text, specifically the New Novel descended from the modernist novel. The five-page initial paragraph, with its unconventional punctuation and capitalization, represents the turbulent flow of interior monologue constructed as stream of consciousness--a formal match for the paradoxical content of the epigraph: "'I thought I was learning how to live / I was learning how to die.' / Leonardo da Vinci."

Like its Proustian and Faulknerian antecedents, Simon's New Novel employs shifting perspectives and constant qualifications in its self-conscious exploration of phenomenology, psychology, and time. Unlike its modernist antecedents which use these techniques to arrive at a holistic vision, this postmodernist novel defies integration. The reader, like the protagonists, must live with the experience of disconnectedness and disorder.


First published: 1961 (La Route des Flandres, Les Editions de Minuit, Paris). Translated by Richard Howard.


George Braziller

Place Published

New York



Page Count