Going through the books in my library the other day, I came across the classics. As I dusted and rearranged those books I couldn’t help but wonder if any of the new generation has read these books other than those assigned for them in school. Tolstoy, Balzac, Dostoyevsky, Chekhov, Dumas, Hugo, Dickens, Austin, Eliot, Hardy, Woolf, Flaubert, Turgenev, Gorky and many others.
François Mauriac once said when asked if he still read novels:
“I read very few. Every day I find that age asphyxiates the characters inside of me. I was once a passionate reader, I might say insatiable, but now… When I was young, my own future assured to the Madame Bovarys, the Anna Kareninas, the characters from Balzac, the atmosphere that made them, for me, living creatures. They spread out before me all that I dreamed out for myself. My destiny was prefigured by theirs. Then, as I lived longer, they closed around me like rivals. A kind of competition obliged me to measure myself against them, above all against the characters of Balzac. Now, however, they have become part of that which has been completed.
On the other hand, I can still reread a novel by Bernanos, or even Huysmans, because it has a metaphysical extension. As for my younger contemporaries, it is their technique, more than anything else, that interests me.”
“It is because novels no longer have any hold on me that I am given over more to history, to history of the making.”
Novels nowadays no longer interest me the way the classics did when I was much younger. It’s so true what Mauriac says about the technique of the writers. I can hardly finish a novel without complaining about the story, the characters, the plot and so on. I mean, for some of the novels that I have read I don’t remember anything about the story nor the characters. I know that while reading I am fascinated by the way the book is written, and for me that is not enough.
“Today, along with nonrepresentational art we have the non-representational novel- the characters simply have no distinguishing features.
I believe the crisis of the novel, it exists, is right there essentially, in the domain of technique. The novel has lost its purpose. That is the most serious difficulty, and it is from there that we must begin. The younger generation believes, after Joyce and Proust, that it has discovered the “purpose” of the old novel to have been prefabricated and unrelated to reality.”
Have a great week reading and writing!