Alain Robbe-Grillet

The significations of the world around us are no more than partial, provisional, even contradictory, and always contested. How could the work of art claim to illustrate a signification known in advance, whatever it might be? The modern novel, as we said at the start, is an exploration, but an exploration which itself creates its own significations, as it proceeds. Does reality have a meaning? The contemporary artist cannot answer this question: he knows nothing about it. All he can say is that this reality will perhaps have a meaning after he has existed, that is, once the work is brought to its conclusion.

What regard this as a pessimism? In any case it is the contrary of a renunciation. We no long believe in the fixed significations, the ready-made meanings which afforded man the old divine order and subsequently the rationalist order of the nineteenth century, but we project onto man all our hopes: it is the forms man creates which can attach significations to the world.

Before the work of art, there is nothing—no certainty, no thesis, no message. To believe that the novelist has “something to say” and that he then looks for a way to say it represents the gravest of misconceptions. For it is precisely this “way,” this manner of speaking, which constitutes his enterprise as a writer, an enterprise more obscure than any other, and which will later be the uncertain content of his book.

— For a New Novel