Judgement (Jonathan Dee)
In my youth I believed that what characterized the serious writer of literary fiction was that he or she had something important to say – on the issues of the day, on the nature of man, on the role and definition of literature itself – and that a great novel was thus a complex parable in which imaginary figures spoke and acted in such a way as to bear out, as in a mathematical proof, the truth of their creator’s beliefs. I will never forget how confounded I was, as a college student in the grip of this passion, to come across the following assertion from a writer with whom I was otherwise infatuated, Alain Robbe-Grillet:
“We thus see the absurdity of that favorite expression of our traditional criticism: ‘X has something to say and says it well.’ Might we not advance on the contrary that the genuine writer has nothing to say? He has only a way of speaking.”
Twenty-five years later, I find myself in hot pursuit of this idea, to which my young mind was closed. I build my novels around aspects of contemporary culture about which I hold strong opinions, yet much of the effort, in the writing, goes into suppressing those opinions, and portraying controversial figures in the only way worth doing: from the inside out. Moral relativism is the language of the novel – at least of the novel that’s any good. If what I believe about, say, income inequality leaves a trace on the page, then that trace is a stain of failure. “The novel,” writes Milan Kundera, “is a realm where moral judgment is suspended.” I make sure to intone those words (and Robbe-Grillet’s) to all my writing students, even though I know the lesson therein isn’t likely to take hold for many years, if it takes hold at all.
Pour citer cette ressource :
Jonathan Dee, "Judgement (Jonathan Dee)", La Clé des Langues [en ligne], Lyon, ENS de LYON/DGESCO (ISSN 2107-7029), avril 2014. Consulté le 05/12/2023. URL: https://cle.ens-lyon.fr/anglais/litterature/entretiens-et-textes-inedits/judgement-jonathan-dee-