“The brush swept down and ripped free until, abruptly, she quit brushing, stepped into the living room, dropped onto the couch, leaned back against the brick wall, and went totally limp. Then, from behind long black bangs, her eyes moved, looked at me. The question of what to do with my life was resolved for the next four years.”
The life of an honest man must be a perpetual infidelity. For the man who wishes to remain faithful to truth must make himself continually unfaithful to all the continual, successive, indefatigable renascent errors. And the man who wishes to remain faithful to justice must make himself continually unfaithful to inexhaustibly triumphant injustices
Charles Péguy, in Bar Cochebas
As I have been expending my strength with success during the time of the Growth, I have in fact already started to wear myself out, because the more I display my capabilities, the more fragile they become, the more ground I occupy, the more I must toll to conserve it; the Roman Empire had pushed its lines too far not to collapse.
In a certain way, could the same thing not be said about love? The more it unfolds, the more it touches its limit. The more it culminates, becomes absolute, to the point of absorbing everything, the more it places itself in danger: feverish and intimate afternoons turn into despair to the point of suffocation. For if it is not ‘me’ who passes from love to abhorrence or indifference ‘afterwards’, is it not rather that, the more it concentrates intensity, indeed the more it puts the impossible to the test, then the closer love comes to being inverted? And so it tends to become, literally, ‘catastrophic’. Moreover, it is then not a matter of ‘hatred’, as a feeling in the affective or psychological sense that is the opposite of love, but of the same love swinging into its negative. We know that one lover can kill the other one, due not to impulsive anger or delirium, as is too anecdotally claimed, but in a logical way—or may the amorous anger which one day arose not already have been a preliminary outline of this looming reversal?
François Julien. The Silent Transformations. trans. Krzysztof Fijalkowski and Michael Richardson
“Narrative psychologists have pointed out that novels, with their conventionalised plot-lines and highly suggestive myths, provide powerful, often normative models for our own self-narration and interpretation of the past. Apparently, when interpreting our own experience, we constantly, and often unconsciously, draw on pre-existing narrative patterns as supplied by literature. Thus, by disseminating new interpretations of the past and new models of identity, fictions of memory may also influence how we, as readers, narrate our pasts and ourselves into existence.”
Birgit Neumann, The Literary Representation of Memory
I loathe the day a manuscript is sent to the publisher, because on that day the people one has loved die; they become what they are—petrified, fossil organisms for others to study and collect. I get asked what I mean by this and that. But what I wrote is what I meant. If I wasn’t clear in the book, it shouldn’t be clear now.
I find that Americans, especially the kind of people who write and ask questions, have a strangely pragmatic view of what books are. Perhaps because of the miserable heresy that creative writing can be taught (‘creative’ is here a euphemism for ‘initiative’), they seem to believe that a writer always knows exactly what he’s doing. Obscure books, for them, are a kind of crossword puzzle. Somewhere, they feel, in some number of a paper they missed, all the answers have been given to all the clues.
They believe, in short, that a book is like a machine; that if you have the knack, you can take it to bits.
John Fowles, writing in 1966, an essay from Wormholes, written just before releasing The French Lieutenant’s Woman for fossilisation publication.