Books: Many-Tentacled Evasions

PORTRAIT OF A MAN UNKNOWN (223 pp.) — Nathalie Sarraute — Brazil Braziller ($3.50).

At first glance, France's acclaimed Nathalie Sarraute (56) writes like a woman who has lost her novelist's wits. Her characters are anonymous, shadowlike creatures who seem to take turns living first in feverish madness, then in tiresome mediocrity. They know each other, but what binds them together is neither friendship nor love but a mixture of sickly attraction and grisly revulsion. Jean Paul Sartre, contributing an enthusiastic forward, explains: "If we take a look at what goes on inside people, we glimpse a moiling of flabby, many-tentacled...

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