Ricardou, Jean 1932–

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Ricardou, Jean 1932–


Born June 17, 1932, in Cannes, France. Education: University of Aix-Marseilles, B.A., 1950 and 1951; École Normale d'Instituteurs, Paris, France, certificate, 1953.


Writer and educator. Primary school teacher, 1953-61; secondary school teacher, 1961-77; has taught at Canadian and American universities.


L'Observatoire de Cannes (novel), Les Éditions de Minuit (Paris, France), 1961.

La Prise de Constantinople (novel), Les Éditions de Minuit (Paris, France), 1965.

Problèmes du nouveau roman, Éditions du Seuil (Paris, France), 1967.

(With Georges Pulet) Les Chemins actuels de la critique: [colloque tenu au] Centre culturel international de Cérisy-la-Salle, 2 septembre-12 septembre 1966, Plon (Paris, France), 1967.

Les Lieux-dits, petit guide d'un voyage dans le livre (novel), Gallimard (Paris, France), 1969, translation by Jordan Stump published as Place Names: A Brief Guide to Travels in the Book, Dalkey Archive Press (Champaign, IL), 2007.

Révolutions minuscules (short stories), Gallimard (Paris, France), 1971, reprinted as Révélations minuscules, en guise de préface à la gloire de Jean Paulhan, suivi de Révolutions minuscules, Les Impressions Nouvelles (Paris, France), 1988.

Pour une théorie du nouveau roman, Éditions du Seuil (Paris, France), 1971.

La Fiction flamboyante, Minuit (Paris, France), 1971.

(Editor, with Françoise van Rossum-Guyon) Nouveau roman: hier aujourd'hui, Union Générale d'Éditions (Paris, France), 1972.

(With Gérard-Julien Salvy) Actes relatifs à la mort de Raymond Roussel, translated from the Italian by Giovanni Joppolo and Gérard-Julien Salvy, l'Herne (Paris, France), 1972.

Le nouveau roman (criticism; also see below), Éditions du Seuil (Paris, France), 1973.

Improbables strip-teases (fiction), Cahiers Odradek (Liege, France), 1973.

(Editor) Claude Simon: Analyse, théorie, [Colloque du] Centre culturel international de Cérisy-la-Salle, [1er-8 juillet 1974], Union Générale d'Éditions (Paris, France), 1975.

(Editor) Robbe-Grillet: analyse, théorie: Centre culturel international de Cérisy-la-Salle, Union générale d'éditions (Paris, France), 1976.

"Paradigme," Albert Ayme, C. Martinez (Paris, France), 1976.

Nouveaux problèmes du roman, Éditions du Seuil (Paris, France), 1978.

Le Théâtre des métamorphoses (fiction and criticism), Éditions du Seuil (Paris, France), 1982.

(Editor, with Lucien Dällenbach) Problèmes actuels de la lecture: [colloque], Centre culturel international de Cérisy-la-Salle [du 21 au 31 juillet 1979], Clancier-Guénaud (Paris, France), 1982.

Lire Claude Simon: Colloque de Cérisy, Impressions Nouvelles (Paris, France), 1986.

La Cathédrale de sens (short stories), Impressions Nouvelles (Paris, France), 1988.

Une maladie chronique, Impressions Nouvelles (Paris, France), 1989.

Le nouveau roman: suivi de les raisons de l'ensemble, Éditions du Seuil (Paris, France), 1990.

(Editor) Maurice de Gandillac, Bestiaire Latéral, Atelier de l'Agneau (St-Quentin-de-Caplong, France), 2005.

Contributor to books, including La route des Flandres, par Claude Simon. Suivi de: Un ordrè dans la débâcle, par Jean Ricardou et d'une interview de Claude Simon, par Claude Sarraute, by Claude Simon, Union Générale d'Éditions (Paris, France), 1963.

Contributor to periodicals, including Nouvelle Revue Française, Médiations, Esprit, Revue des Sciences Humaines, Homme et la Société, L'Intertextualité, Texte, Texte en Main, and Conséquences.

Ricardou's works have been translated into foreign languages, including Japanese.


French author Jean Ricardou is most closely associated with the French new novel, or the nouveau roman. He has also written short stories, essays, and literary criticism. As a fiction writer, Ricardou is experimental in his work, shunning modern conventions in character and plot in order to explore more philosophical and theoretical concerns. Consequently, his books aim to engage his audience's intellect, which forces readers to actively interpret his writings in order to understand them; in short, he is often seen as a difficult writer for most audiences to comprehend. Ricardou's first novel, L'Observatoire de Cannes, for example, is "ungoverned by traditional notions of plot," according to a Dictionary of Literary Biography contributor. The contributor also noted that the novel "is perhaps best characterized as a quest." Commenting that the work revolves around four people, including a young girl, the same contributor wrote: "Through a series of scenes described as photographs, drawings, and observations, the narrative develops an implicit center of consciousness obsessed by the pursuit and conquest of the girl."

In Le Théâtre des métamorphoses, Ricardou combines criticism and fiction. In a review for World Literature Today, Judith L. Greenberg commented that the author "is, refreshingly, serious without being pontifical; fun is a function of his structure." Greenberg also noted that the book "is well on the way to transforming our reading—and reading matter. It matters." In his short-story collection La Cathédrale de sens, Ricardou explores through the medium of fiction such issues as the writer's identity, time and space, and erotic themes in fiction. Writing in the French Review, Tobin H. Jones, referring to these stories and those that appear in Révolutions minuscules, commented that "those who enjoy the virtuosity of Ricardou's technique will follow fascinated as he pushes even further into the textual labyrinth of generating and structuring narrative fiction."

Among Ricardou's critical works is Le nouveau roman, which examines the French new novel and its authors. "Section by section, … Ricardou defines and exemplifies the ways in which these novelists have challenged the logic of traditional narrative," commented a London Times Literary Supplement contributor. The author also served as editor with Françoise van Rossum-Guyon of Nouveau roman: hier aujourd'hui, a collection of presentations and essays concerning a 1971 literary meeting focusing on the nouveau roman.

Ricardou's 1969 novel, Les Lieux-dits, petit guide d'un voyage dans le livre, was translated by Jordan Stump and published in 2007 as Place Names: A Brief Guide to Travels in the Book. Several reviewers commented that the author's style in the novel is similar to several of the works by South American writer Jorge Luis Borges. For example, a contributor to the Quarterly Conversations Web site stated that the first half of the book describes small French villages, noting: "I've come to dub Ricardou's style here … as ‘Borgesian Pastoralism.’" The reviewer also commented: "What's Borgesian here is the minute attention to detail and the fact that, read one way, the book essentially says nothing, but read another way virtually ever single sentence is bursting with significance." A Publishers Weekly contributor referred to the novel as "A little bit Borges and a little bit [Italo] Calvino."

Place Names essentially follows a nameless traveler and various people he meets who help him with his ponderings about clues and meanings in the allegorical works of a fictional artist named Albert Crucis. Categorized as a nouveau roman, Place Names takes such unexpected twists as revealing that some of the characters have already read the novel and eventually introducing an omniscient "I" narrator who claims to have written the novel and comments on its meaning and ultimate reception by the reading public. "Fiction about the essence of fiction challenges the reader to distinguish between what's allegory and what's arbitrary," wrote a contributor to Kirkus Reviews. Emily Benson, in a review for Library Journal, noted that the author's "powers of observation are truly daunting."



Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 83: French Novelists since 1960, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1989.

Thompson, William, editor, The Contemporary Novel in France, University Press of Florida (Gainesville, FL), 1995.


French Review, March, 1989, Tobin H. Jones, review of Révolutions minuscules and La Cathédrale de sens, pp. 720-721.

French Studies, April, 1992, Edmund J. Smyth, review of Une maladie chronique, p. 237.

Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2007, review of Place Names: A Brief Guide to Travels in the Book. Library Journal, October 1, 2007, Emily Benson, review of Place Names, p. 65.

Modern Language Notes, September, 1989, Jan Baetens, review of Révolutions minuscules and La Cathédrale de sens, pp. 960-965.

Publishers Weekly, September 10, 2007, review of Place Names, p. 42.

Times Literary Supplement (London, England), January 12, 1972, review of Nouveau roman: hier aujourd'hui, p. 33; August 2, 1974, review of Le nouveau roman, p. 824.

World Literature Today, autumn, 1982, Judith L. Greenberg, review of Le Théâtre des métamorphoses, pp. 648-649.


Quarterly Conversation,http://www.conversationalreading.com/ (August 1, 2008), "Borgesian Pastoralism," review of Place Names.