The setting of Nathalie Sarraute’s Do You Hear Them? is a dinner conversation between a father and his old friend about a recently acquired pre-Columbian statue. As they discuss the merits of the piece and art in general, the father hears his children upstairs giggling. This childish mirth is barbaric and devastating to the father, for in their laughter he hears them mocking his “old-fashioned” viewpoint and the energy he wastes by collecting lifeless objects. In his mind, they have no respect for what has been of greatest importance in his life.
A master at depicting the vacillations and urges of mental states, Nathalie Sarraute captures in this novel the eternal conflict between generations and between the past and the present.