14 NOVEMBER 1970, Page 19

Who reads fiction?

Sir: Mr Auberon Waugh's remarks about the Newbury bookseller made me stop and think. I was unaware that people do not read fiction today but I am not sur- prised. The only wonder of it is how so many titles nevertheless get published.

Pondering on the subject I reali- sed that I had not read an English or American novel for many years. Is this my fault—or whose?

This does not mean that I do not read fiction : far from it. I have found an entirely new world of intellectual entertainment in the modern French novel. French writers write for an adult, intelli- gent public. I readl that when I used to pick up a book in English I usually put it down again half read. bored. I never do this with a French novel and I recommend, to all those who (evidently) feel the same, the works of Robbe- Grillet. Sarraute, the wholly de- lightful Robert Pinget, Monique Wittig. Ireland's Beckett of course, Claude Simon and many others.

These writers have discovered a new, subjective technique whereby the reader becomes identified with the author and the characters. It is not easy to generalise but that seems to be the general attraction and, incidentally, they are singu- larly free of pornography. Sex is put in its proper place and per- spective. French wnters have gone beyond the dirty schoolboy stage.

One other factor which may or may not be significant is that all are paper back and relatively cheap. If Anglo American pub- lishers want people to buy books instead of borrow them they might consider the French device of limi- ted editions numerotees.

I do not think, however, that they translate very well.

Geo. E. Assinder Windywalls, Little Hallingbury, Nr. Bishops Stortford.