Récit (French meaning ‘narration, narrative, accounts of events, recital) is a form of fictional narrative which is related to the novella, the Novelle, the roman, and the nouvelle. André Gide, one of its most notable practitioners, made a clear distinction between his romans and his récits. Les Faux-monnayeurs (1926), for instance, is a roman; L’Immoraliste (1902) and La Porte étroite (1909) are outstanding examples of the récit. Gide theorized about both forms, and debate as to precisely what a récit is and is not continuing. Typically, a récit has a high degree of compression and concentration and the narrative is related from one point of view. It has a single theme and very few characters, apart from the central character on whom attention is focused almost exclusively. Events and actions should speak for themselves and the reader is left to draw his or her own conclusions. Thus, there is no intervention on the part of the author to explain motives, pass judgements or draw conclusions.
Gide’s récits combine intimate personal experience with a technique that is aimed to exclude the presence of the author. His elimination of the author in some ways prefigures Roland Barthes’s celebrated exposition The Death of the Author. In order to achieve the required effacement, he uses the first-person narrator device, but the first person is ‘borrowed’. The author effaces himself behind his narrator (who is also his hero/heroine or one of the main characters). Whereas in a novel events tend to unfold in a chronological sequence and are described as they occur, the events in a récit are depicted by an oblique, reflective and associative method. Récits may be as long as novels and a plot may extend over a longer period of time than does the single and significant episode of the nouvelle. The récit seems to have a kind of intermediary position between novel and nouvelle. Other examples which might fall into the récit category are Samuel Beckett’s Malone Dies (1951) and Albert Camus’s La Chute (1956).
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