The Novelist as Philosopher: Studies in French Fiction, 1935-1960

The Novelist as Philosopher: Studies in French Fiction, 1935-1960

The Novelist as Philosopher: Studies in French Fiction, 1935-1960

The Novelist as Philosopher: Studies in French Fiction, 1935-1960

Excerpt

The novelists whose work is discussed in these essays do not form a distinct school or movement. It must be admitted, too, that they are not the only writers of importance who have contributed to the development of French fiction during the last twenty-five years. Considerable differences of artistic achievement, as well as of individual temperament, exist between some of them (between Bernanos and Sartre, or between Queneau and Robbe-Grillet, for example). And yet, from several points of view, all possess a certain general 'family likeness' which is not easily extended to Gide and Mauriac, even though some might argue that it could include Montherlant and Julien Green. This 'family likeness', in the broadest sense, existing between the writers discussed later, arises mainly from the fact that their novels, and the attitudes they adopt to the novelist's function and responsibilities, suggest to the critic a series of questions concerning the nature of the relationship between philosophy and literature. Any thorough assessment of their work must include some exploration of that ill-defined area (what Malraux calls 'ce domaine un peu trouble') where philosophy and fiction appear to meet. It is an area which all these novelists have occupied with varying degrees of conscious purpose and artistic success. I would add, however, that the fact of taking up this position has been connected, in their work, with other attitudes and tendencies as well. Yet while some of these features have been widely shared by most serious novelists of the present century, others seem to be particularly distinctive aspects of French fiction since the nineteen-thirties.

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