Thursday, May 10, 2007

The art of the novel

Recently, quite a number of good (and bad) books on the art of the novel have been appearing in the bookstores, and I, for one, have no complaints against it. Rather, I welcome them as these books equip us with ways of looking at the best works of fiction that might have not occured to us. Others are quite scholarly, and and yet there are some that simply inspire us to become writers and teach us how to stay on the course.

In a review essay in the recent issue of NYRB, Hermione Lee takes an overview of the art and craft of writing novels, why do we need novels, what do they achieve through their existence and how they have evolved over centuries and reached today's stage:

The novel's entanglement in "the prose of the world" can also be its justification and its pride. The novel's virtue, it has often been argued, lies in its egalitarianism, its very commonplaceness. And the novel's everydayness need not be an enemy to its aesthetic integrity. In his wise, deep, and witty essay on the novel, The Curtain, Milan Kundera, a follower of Flaubert in his critique and practice of the European novel, celebrates "the everyday" ("it is not merely ennui, pointlessness, repetition, triviality; it is beauty as well") while writing in praise of the novel's essential self-sufficiency:

It...refuses to exist as illustration of an historical era, as description of a society, as defense of an ideology, and instead puts itself exclusively at the service of "what only the novel can say."

Look at the titles of the books at the beginning of the essay. Do you need a better bibliography on this subject?


Tunku Halim said...

I dropped by from Lydia Teh's. You're got a wonderful blog. I'll look out for your books.

Zafar Anjum said...

Thanks for dropping by and for saying those kind words.