Who Speaks for Wales? Nation, Culture, Identity

By Raymond Williams; Daniel Williams | Go to book overview

Freedom and a Lack of Confidence
(1981)

There are no rules about the novel as a form. It has made them up as it has gone along. From collections of letters to impersonal narratives, from what look like private diaries to what read like tape-recordings of others, from past and present to a variety of futures, it has made its own ways.

But this doesn't mean there aren't effective traditions, in particular times and places. For a run of years and writers the novel can seem, temporarily, to be stable: all the deep choices made by the effective form, leaving writers to their particularities inside that.

This isn't really so anywhere now. A number of forms are internationally current: from thrillers to myth-making fantasies, from science fiction to accounts of enclosed personal relations–this last still claiming a unique authenticity. There are still what are called historical novels, meaning usually stories set in some particular period of the past rather than stories involving the movements of history. There are also still some social novels: presenting people in a crisis of their own place and time.

In this general and international diversity, it is not to be expected that the novel in Wales has any single operative direction or form. The effect, in Wales as elsewhere, is double-edged. It gives us freedom: we can do it our own ways. But this kind of freedom is often, in practice, a disabling lack of confidence. It is one of the paradoxes of artistic freedom that it often flourishes best when there is some deep agreement about purposes and methods.

Moreover, when you put that kind of negative freedom alongside market conditions in which there is more supply than effective demand, and in which novel-writing, in particular, with its long investment of time, can seem quixotic by comparison with journalism, broadcasting,

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