We gave it a B-
A spy tale whose prime puzzle lies in the philosophical intricacies of its own construction, Robbe-Grillet’s first novel in two decades begins just after World War II on a train bound for a wrecked Berlin. The narrator, a French secret agent disguised by a fake mustache and haunted by a double, at first seems an Inspector Clouseau lost in the murk of a Dostoyevsky tale, as he gives pleasurably precise descriptions of a stakeout and a shooting. Then Robbe-Grillet gradually lets down his Kierkegaard and the book becomes a dryly intellectualized fantasy featuring footnoted revisions of the text, the monologue of a present-day writer, the ritual torture of a French schoolgirl, and the word Oedipo-Freudian. Suggested subtitle: This Is Not a Spy Tale.