Sunday, April 15, 2007

T.S. Eliot on Novel and Readers

from his introduction to Djuna Barnes's Nightwood (something applicable to a lot of contemporary writing of our time too):

"[But] I do mean that most contemporary novels are not really "written." They obtain what reality they have largely from an accurate rendering of the noises that human beings currently make in their daily simple needs of communication; and what part of a novel is not composed of these noises consists of a prose which is no more alive than that of a competent newspaper writer or government official. A prose that is altogether alive demands something of the reader that the ordinary novel-reader is not prepared to give."

6 comments:

Cheshire Cat said...

It will always be applicable, at least as long as the novel exists. Then again, one should be wary of Eliot, perhaps he did not truly believe in the novel...

Alok said...

yes that's true. but we do need reminders from time to time that not all competent writers are artists. Though so far, I am less than half way through, this particular book is not looking as impressive as I had expected after reading the Eliot introduction.

Cheshire Cat said...

I ended up buying the book too because everyone here was so enthusiastic about it. But whether I read it or not depends on your verdict :)

Alok said...

Haha.. i refuse to take any such responsibility :)

actually it is written in a very interesting and striking style and there are some amusing bits and pieces here and there but the whole thing feels "insignificant."

May be it is the effect Man Without Qualities... After around a thousand pages my mind has become attuned to thinking grave thoughts about history, ideology, fascism, nihilism, apocalypse, and these small scale stories feel too insignificant and unimportant. that might be one reason!

Antonia said...

haha the bad influence of Musil. That can very well be. Did you read already the chapter of the nightconversation between Dr O'Connor and Nora? That's a peak in my opinion. Best passage in the book. Don't you like Dr O'Connor? He is so nicely neurotic.

Alok said...

no i haven't reached there yet. yeah, the doctor is a very amusing and interesting character portrait, even though initially i was a little taken aback by some of his remarks.