The Wind - Claude Simon
The Wind reminds me a bit of film noir or hard-boiled stories; the "movie" of the book is definitely black-and-white. The town (not named, I don't think) has a distinct atmosphere, with its impoverished landscape, swirling with dust kicked up by the monotonous wind, and its sour inhabitants, ready for dirty deals and petty crime. Into this is dropped a character (Montès) who's completely out of step with it; but he's no incorruptible detective, merely possessed of very obstinate naïveté.

But of course, what has to be mentioned is the extraordinary style this story is written in. I doubt that this book contains the longest sentence ever committed to print, but certainly many of its sentences are serious contenders for that distinction. One that starts on the first page runs on for three more pages! Luckily, though, I quickly realized that, in spite of the lengthy parentheses and subordinate clauses, it's not necessary to completely map out the sentences in order to get the gist of the prose; by a few chapters in, I was almost never going back to reread a paragraph, though my overall speed was certainly slowed down.

So, is this a good stylistic choice, or is it done just for novelty? I'll have to reserve judgment on that for the moment. But it seems to me that those astonishing sentences are only one part of a style that creates a fluidity of time, intimations of future events blending seamlessly with narration and with background information; the life of the town seems timelessly repetitive (the inhabitants seem to have been thoroughly in a groove before Montès' arrival) but Montès perceives time as rushing inexorably, and the writing suits the mood. Later on, great narrative gaps leap toward the crisis point, and then stasis sets in. Simon spends some effort discussing the perception of time. I was going to quote a couple of memorable instances, but I found that I can't extract quotes from those tangled paragraphs.

The characters are naturalistic, not at all romantic, and their dialogue is terse, even inarticulate. And yet there is an odd duality: the narrator (a writer) sometimes claims that the accounts they gave him, telling him of events, were as imaginative and elaborate as his own narration: for example, the process-server is represented as saying that Montès stared at him "[a]s if one of those jackdaws, one of those carrion crows had just eaten his own eyes, thinking he was really a corpse, and left those birds' eyes instead..." This contrast makes it clear that the narrator is attributing to people recollections that they can't have had, and yet he puts quotes around those words. I wonder why.