Nathalie Sarraute has written six plays over a period of some fifteen years (1967–82). Her latest play, Pour un oui ou pour un non, was first performed in 1982. Given their relative success, however, one is forced to wonder why she has not continued to write for the theatre (though, since 1982, she has published four major works of narrative, Enfance, Tu ne t'aimes pas, Ici and Ouvrez). When I put this question to Nathalie Sarraute in October 1996, at the Institut Français in London, she replied that she had ‘found more amusing things to do’. Her failure to answer the question directly perhaps suggests an unawareness of the real answer, at least at conscious levels. The theatre, an inescapably physical medium, which requires the bodily presence of men and women as gendered beings, was, in fact, never really suited to a writer who continually takes refuge from the physical and even the sexual, hi words. It seems plausible, then, to conjecture that Sarraute gave up writing for the theatre, because her radio plays had, by reason of their success, been translated onto the stage, and the author did not know how to deal with a medium that privileged the physical as opposed to the emotional and psychological dimensions of human relationships which had been her territory since Tropismes. The frequently impersonal voices of her fiction work well on radio, but less so on a live stage, upon which the actors are physically as well as audibly present: ‘Le person-nage de théâtre’, says Alain Robbe-Grillet, ‘est en scène, c'est sa première qualité: il est là.’ In Sarraute's theatre, however, this physical presence is no more than a kind of contingency, wholly superfluous to the action. The characters find themselves together for no particular reason and they hardly ever interact physically. The very lack of stage directions, which the author justifies on the grounds of textual purity, is itself indicative of an absence of movement, the main signifier of physical presence. Textual purity depends for Sarraute on words alone.