To be published shortly in
Snapshots and Towards a New Novel
by Alain Robbe-Grillet, translated by Barbara Wright,
John Calder (Publishers) Ltd, 18 Brewer Street, w.i, at 35s.
Once we had crossed the line of rocks, which until then had been obstructing our view, we were again able to see the mainland, the hill with the pine-wood, the two white cottages and the bottom of the gently sloping road we had come along. We had been right round the island.
And yet, if we recognized the landscape over on the mainland without difficulty, the same could not be said of the narrow sound which separated us from it, and even less of the shore where we were now. It was therefore several minutes before we finally realized that the passage back to the mainland had been cut off.
We ought to have seen it at a glance. The road, cut out of the hill-side, ran down parallel to the strand and, at shore-level, with an abrupt bend to the right, joined a stone causeway, wide enough for a car, which made it possible to cross the sound at low tide without getting one’s feet wet. At the bend there was a high bank shored up by a low wall against which the road abutted; seen from the place where we were now, it hid the beginning of the causeway from our eyes. The rest of the causeway was under water. It was merely the change in our viewpoint that had confused us for a moment; this time we were on the island and, what was more, we had come from the opposite direction, walking north, while the end of the road was facing south.
From the top of the hill we can see the road leading down to the causeway, just past the bend where two or three isolated pine trees are growing, with the sound on the right, and the island, which isn’t yet quite an island. The water is as calm as pond water, and is nearly up to the top of the stone causeway, whose smooth, brown surface has the same worn look as the nearby rocks. Its greenish patches of delicate, mossy algae, half-discoloured by the sun, prove that it is frequently submerged, and for long periods. At the other end of the mole, as at this end, the causeway rises imperceptibly to join the mud path that crosses the islet; on that bank, though, the path is afterwards quite level and forms a very wide angle with the mole. Although there is no
We walk down the road cut out of the hill towards the causeway. There are two fishermen’s cottages by it on the left: their walls have been newly roughcast and recently whitewashed: the only stones still visible are the freestones round the apertures—a low door, and a small, square window. The windows and doors are closed, the glass covered by solid wooden shutters, painted a vivid blue.
Lower down, above the side of the road cut out of the hillside, there is a vertical yellow clay wall, as tall as a man, broken here and there by laminae with cracks bristling with sharp edges; a straggling bramble and hawthorn hedge crowns the general effect, cutting off the view of the heath and the pine-wood. On our right, though, the road is only bordered by a narrow bank, hardly a step or two high, so that our gaze falls straight on to the rocks on the beach, the motionless water of the sound, the stone mole, and the little island.