Antinovel: A type of experimental novel that attempts to present the reader with experience itself, unfiltered by metaphor or other vehicles of authorial interpretation. The term — or, more specifically, its French counterpart, anti-roman — was coined by twentieth-century existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre in his introduction to Nathalie Sarraute’s Portrait d’un inconnu (Portrait of a Man Unknown) (1948). Antinovelists attempt to depict reality without recourse to a moral frame of reference; they avoid the kind of subjective narrative evaluation that tends to creep into more traditional fiction, including so-called realistic and naturalistic narratives. Their novels are characterized by the avoidance or minimization of standard narrative elements, including characterization, dialogue, and plot, as well as by the creation of ambiguity and confusion through elements such as dislocations of time and space and inconsistency in point of view.
Antinovel is sometimes used interchangeably with the nouveau roman, which arose in France in the mid-twentieth century and reached its height in the 1950s and 1960s. The term may, however, be used more broadly; indeed, works ranging from Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy (9 vols.; 1759—67) to Uwe Johnson’s Mutmassungen über Jakob (Speculations about Jakob) (1959) to Margaret Drabble’s The Middle Ground (1980) have been called antinovels. Antinovel is sometimes also used interchangeably with new novel.
FURTHER EXAMPLES: Alain Robbe-Grillet’s Le voyeur (The Voyeur) (1955); Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire (1962); John Hawkes’s The Blood Oranges (1971).