by Mark Dorset
If we are prepared to refer simply to the facts . . . we shall see
that Nature teaches us nothing, or practically nothing. . . . I ask you
to scrutinize whatever is natural—all the actions and desires of the purely
natural man: you will find nothing but frightfulness. Everything
beautiful and noble is the result of reason and calculation.
“The Painter of Modern Life”
(translated by Jonathan Mayne)
Ralph Waldo Emerson:
It is to be hoped that, by patience and the Muses’ aid, we may attain
that inward view . . . which shall describe a truth ever young and beautiful,
so central that it shall commend itself to the eye, at whatever angle beholden.
And the first condition is, that we must leave
a too close and lingering adherence to the facts, and study the sentiment
as it appeared in hope and not in history. . . . In the actual world—the
painful kingdom of time and place—dwell care, and canker, and fear.
With thought, with the ideal, is immortal hilarity, the rose of joy.
Round it all the muses sing.
Mario Vargas Llosa:
Though no great novel can be called realistic without more or less
misconstruing the term (for either all novels may be so termed, since they
are all nurtured by real facts, or else no novel is realistic, since even
the most mediocre of them transfigure their material to at least a minimum
degree in order to turn it into fiction), it is nonetheless surprising
that for more than a century Madame Bovary, a novel in which mind
becomes matter and matter mind, has been taken as an example of realism,
in the sense of a pure literary duplication of the real.
The Perpetual Orgy: Flaubert and Madame Bovary
Lucien Andrieu in Julian Barnes’s Flaubert’s Parrot:
Flaubert was an artist. He was a writer of the imagination.
And he would alter a fact for the sake of a cadence; he was like that.
Just because he borrowed a parrot, why should he describe it as it was?
Why shouldn’t he change the colours round if it sounded better?
A cult of speed does away with craftsmen to such an extent that the
patience, the manual dexterity essential for the creation of the best,
is no longer found except in those who adapt mechanics to such a purpose.
Reading was once a craft. It is falling into disuse. People
rush. They skip lines. They look at the end of the story.
It is therefore normal for the hasty to prefer memories of facts that give
rise to works to the works themselves, and absent-mindedly to swallow the
tools, through weariness at having to chew what they carve.
This is also why people prefer conversation to the written word, because
it can be listened to with half an ear and demands no effort.
The Difficulty of Being
(translated by Elizabeth Sprigge)
A writer, for purposes of future collecting of material, needs personal
privacy and disguises. Since telling the truth is merely a version
of events anyway and nobody else’s “truth,” the essential thing is to convey
similar effects, similar emotions and in my own case arrive at artistic
truth by artistic means, instead of handicapping myself by withholding
some facts and enlarging or distorting others. Better to fictionalize
all—more pleasure and more freedom. Deciding this, I believe I can
achieve much more interesting and worthwhile effects. Dance Night
was completely fiction as I was working on it. Yet it is more autobiographical
(with facts translated into their own value emotionally and structurally)
than any autobiography I can imagine.
Diary Entry, December 4, 1943
Imagine, please, an island, a small one, not in some pellucid subtropical
sea, but in a gray bay, shallow, often cold, and on the island imagine
an old hotel, where an aging dreamer, Peter Leroy, lives with his beautiful
wife, Albertine Gaudet.
Albertine runs the hotel, and Peter spends much of each
day sitting in a room on the top floor, writing the Personal History, Adventures,
Experiences & Observations of Peter Leroy, his life story.
If you could look over his shoulder and watch him at work,
you would be likely to find that he was re-writing an episode from
his past, making of his life a story that it never was, because when he
reminisces he finds that he’s as interested in the possibilities as he
is in the facts, and also because memory, like an old radio receiver, picks
up a lot of static.
to Leaving Small’s Hotel
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