Sunday, February 09, 2014

The Proper Function of the Novelist

...[T]he proper function of the novelist consists exclusively of enabling us to get a more distinct grip on that unity which, of course, existed in life before it existed in fiction, and which makes fiction possible. The novelist communicates directly to us something which ordinary conditions of life condemn us merely to glance at. But the novelist is in no sense the inventor of this sort of unity; and the greater a novelist is, the more he gives us the sense that he is not making anything up. I quote Charles Du Bos on Tolstoy's War and Peace: ‘Life would speak thus, if life could speak’. I have no hesitation for my own part in saying that it is through the novelist's power of creation that we can get our best glimpse of what lies behind and under the reverberatory power of facts.

Gabriel Marcel, The Mystery of Being, Part I, Chapter IV.


  1. Enbrethiliel4:07 AM


    "The greater a novelist is, the more he gives us the sense that he is not making anything up."

    This is especially interesting to think about in our age, when giving interviews and drumming up publicity became part of the novelist's job description. And at this particular time in our age, when one of our best-selling novelists just admitted that she got part of the ending of her books wrong.

  2. branemrys8:01 AM

    That's an interesting thought. I think in many ways the modern market forces authors to treat their works not as uncovering truths in fictional form but as something they could have made in any way they wanted. At the same time, it's difficult for writers and readers actually to see their work in entirely this way.


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