Adam Pollo is the protagonist of Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio’s first published work entitled Le Procès-verbal (1963). After receiving the Prix Renaudot, this novel attracted the attention of critics, especially because of the particularities of its protagonist who differs in many respects from a traditional character in a novel, in addition to other reasons. Indeed, the richness of multiple sources of inspiration with which this character is impregnated in its construction, places this novel at the crossroads of genres such as the detective novel, the New Novel, the postmodern novel, the existential novel, the surrealist novel, etc. Adam Pollo is at the center of various readings that stem from the novel. He also weaves rich intertextual relationships through biblical references such as Adam, the first man, and by echoing romantic characters such as Meursault (Salles, 2006, 258), Roquentin (Léger, 2004, 977-103) or Robinson Crusoe, or even through references to myths like the Greek god Apollo. He is the sole axis of the unfolding of the story, which is in reality a sequence of scenes from his life, both inside and outside. The novel recounts his thoughts, his dreams, his gestures, and his relationships with others, in short, his way of being. He invites the reader to accompany the protagonist in his “process of ‘overconsciousness’” which may also be at the origin of his alienation (EM, 95). Fleeing all responsibility, Adam revolts against civilization and its plagues. He embodies a marginal being, “a-social, unpredictable, contingent, without status and without a future” (Onimus, 1994, 131). After throwing his motorcycle into the sea to pretend he is dead, he leaves the family home and isolates himself in an abandoned house on a hill, far from the urban space of a coastal town in the south of France. The Interrogation reflects, like a “puzzle novel,” this slice of Adam’s life: between his escape and his transfer to the psychiatric hospital.
The first distinction of this character comes down to the disproportionate nature of his constituent components. In this sense, the indications concerning his physical representation are very limited. In this respect, the reader is only entitled to a brief description of Adam’s appearance at the beginning of the novel: “he was a huge boy, a little hunched over […] He looked like a beggar […] He was dressed only in worn-out beige canvas trousers, soiled with sweat, the legs of which he had folded up to the height of his knees” (PV, 15). It is only in the next-to-last chapter of the work that the author devotes another paragraph to corporeal details, namely the face, hair, shoulders, chest and hands (PV, 230). The reader is also deprived of any identity markers related to the past, professional, or family situation of the character. He cannot even know if Adam “came out of an asylum or the army” (PV, 57). This restricted information is indicative of a lack of realism often expected by readers and thus evokes characters from the New Novel. The realistic aspect is in fact already disturbed in the beginning through the usage of the initial (narrative) strategy specific to fairy tales: “Once upon a time, during the heat wave, a guy was sitting in front of an open window” (PV, 15).
On the other hand, an important place is reserved throughout the story for the representation of Adam’s subjectivity. The latter’s permanent nonchalance and inaction foster a deliberate concentration on his interiority. Adam is used to spending time in silence and indifference, watching people or contemplating nature: “Adam Pollo’s life was that. At night, light the candles at the back of the room, and stand in front of the open windows […] Wait a long time, without moving […] for the first flights of moths to arrive […]; then, lie down on the ground, covered in blankets, and watch, with fixed eyes, the hasty swarming of the insects” (PV, 22). Adam’s passivity robs him of all the allure of a hero. Other characteristics are also added, including violence, making him more like an anti-hero. Mistreating animals in the zoo (PV, 87), recklessly uprooting a rosebush (PV, 115), attempting to rape Michèle (PV, 42), cruelly slaughtering a rat with a billiard ball (PV, 124) and damaging the stalk of a bamboo tree are just a few of his violent acts. Having placed himself on the margins of society, Adam survives by stealing from supermarkets or by getting help from Michèle with whom he has ambiguous relations.
Another specificity of the protagonist from The Interrogation, which recalls postmodern literary characters, is his enigmatic and paradoxical nature. This aspect always creates “a double track” for the reader (Roussel-Gillet, 2011, 108). Thus, Adam has no desire to communicate with others. He even imagines the various methods he could have used to avoid having to speak, instead of retreating to the abandoned house: buying a parrot to let it speak for him, disguising himself as a blind mind, in this way “others would not dare approach him” (PV, 110); or selling lottery tickets to prevent “anyone from talking to him while shouting regularly…Come try your luck!” (PV, 110). Instead, he surprises the reader by harassing strangers and inviting them to talk: “Learn to talk. Try it too. Even if you have nothing to say. […] Come on, talk right and left. Spread the good word” (PV, 247). He also writes letters to Michèle which he never sends to her, or he dreams of traveling and making “a friend in every city” to return to those cities on days when it is impossible to meet those friends (PV, 134). In another chapter, Adam sadistically kills a rat, but cries when he throws it out the window at the bottom of a thorn bush (PV, 125). Later, in a letter addressed to Michèle, he describes the corpse of a rat torn to pieces without having the slightest memory of the torments he had subjected it to (PV, 126). Similarly, after having attempted to rape Michèle, he “gives her [his] raincoat” (PV, 43), while on several occasions he asks her to reimburse the value of the latter (PV, 221, 222). As the diary entry announces, Adam is recognized as a mentally ill schizophrenic “maniac” (PV, 256). The doctor’s diagnosis confirms this: “systematized paranoid delirium, predilection for hypochondria, megalomania (sometimes reversing into micromania), persecution mania” (PV, 287). Yet during his conversations with Michèle, but also when he tries to answer questions from interns at the psychiatric hospital, he often makes philosophical remarks that intrigue others. These comments even seem to fascinate Julienne, one of the interns, who takes him seriously unlike her colleagues. In the scene of the massacre of the rat, establishing “an air of kinship” with it, Adam finally “transforms into a white rat” (PV, 118), and yet at the same time he is its murderer. The “phenomenon of human-animal reversal” (Amar, 2004, 124) happens frequently to Adam. This duality within him is especially noteworthy in his way of living between man and animal: “He, Adam, was well and truly lost; not being a dog (not yet, perhaps) he could not find himself through all these annotations placed flat on the road, these smells […] And being no longer human, in any case, never again, he passed without seeing anything in the very center of the city, and nothing no longer said anything anymore” (PV, 102).
Animality is one of the properties of Adam Pollo. It is a way for him to experience otherness and to experience another way of being. Adam thus follows for hours “a dog alone” in its wanderings, while imitating its behavior. The imitation of the barking of the dog, that of the moans of the rat or the movements of the animals in the zoological garden point in the same direction. The desire to identify with animals indeed stems from a contempt of the absurd life of men trapped in the everydayness of modern life, “a life of slaves in a world of slaves” (Lhoste, 1971, 30). To escape this life, Adam opens up to other forms of existence. His means of achieving these (states) are hyperesthetic presence in nature and material ecstasy (Salles, 2007, 233-234), because “the path of certainties is that of material ecstasy” (PV, 204). His experiences of ecstasy are numerous and significant. This is evidenced by Adam’s union with the “rock world,” the “lion,” “the mosses and lichens,” the “mineral gel,” etc. It is no longer reason that guides Adam, but his senses, for “sensory knowledge alone is the measure of life” (PV, 36). “Proud of not having much human anymore” (PV, 22), Adam is aware of his existential status and wishes to reach the pure state of life, “being of being.” This singular experience is realized beyond spatio-temporal limits, in an absolute “simultaneity” resulting from the “total annihilation of time” (PV, 203). Adam becomes what he perceives through his senses: “Through the force of seeing the world, the world was completely taken out of his eyes; things were so seen, felt, smelled […] that he had become like a faceted mirror (PV, 91). This game of “multiplication” and “identification” helps him to “annihilate himself” to become another (PV, 205). To place oneself in an “antehumanist” (Chung, 2001, 246) and “sympoetic” spirit within the universe, to discover its ontological truth is indeed the project that Adam proposes to modern man through the reading experience.
Translated by Keith Moser
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