"It begins with a stone falling, in the silence, vertically, immobile. It is falling from a great height, a meteor, a massive, compact, oblong block of rock, like a giant egg with a pocked, uneven surface."
The opening sentence of La Belle Captive introduces a dreamworld where the conventions of the traditional novel have been overthrown. Objects move through space without regard to laws of nature, characters move through the text in a maddening complex of events.
Published in 1975, Alain Robbe-Grillet's nouveau roman is illustrated with 77 paintings by René Magritte. Robbe-Grillet uses Magritte's paintings as pretexts for the novel, letting them generate themes for an imaginary discourse that parallels their imagery, glosses them, contradicts them. Simultaneously, he comments on Magritte's paintings while taking advantage of them to parade his own favorite themes: play, eroticism, subversion. Robbe-Grillet gives us a plot that frustrates expectations yet shares his pleasure with the mysterious and poetic in Magritte's art, and with the cultural myths that painter and novelist both parody.
The book includes a critical essay by novelist and translator Ben Stoltzfus on the pictorial and linguistic affinities between Magritte and Robbe-Grillet. Stoltzfus explores the image of the beautiful captive not only in her mythical and erotic dimensions, but also as a metaphor for the artistic process.