01 September 2009

Edmund Wilson

[from Edmund Wilson's Axel's Castle, Scribner's, 1932]

The real elements, of course, of any work of fiction, are the elements of the author's personality: his [sic] imagination embodies in the images of characters, situations and scenes the fundamental conflicts of his nature or the cycle of phases through which it habitually passes. His personages are personifications of the author's various impulses and emotions: and the relations between them in his stories are really the relations between these. One of the causes, in fact, of our feeling that certain works are more satisfactory than others is to be found in the superior thoroughness and candor with which the author has represented these relations. We feel his world to be real and complete, not merely in proportion to the variety of elements it includes, but also in proportion as we recognize these elements as making up an organic whole. From this point of view, Dostoevsky is one of the most satisfactory of novelists; Myshkin and Rogozhin thrill us because they are the opposite poles of one nature; the three brothers Karamazov move us because they are the spirit, mind and body of one man. And if we ask ourselves why even so great a novelist as Dickens does not make upon us so profound an impression as Dostoevsky, we realize that it is because in the case of Dickens, wide and varied as the world of his novels is, the novelist himself is not sufficiently conscious of the significance of what happens there, so that, except in the very best of them, he has admitted a larger conventional element than the greatest novelists ordinarily allow and has been content ot press into service melodramatic "good" characters and villains into whom he has scarcely projected himself at all. . . .

Joyce has found for this new vision a new language, but a language which, instead of diluting or doing violence to his poetic genius, enables it to assimilate more completely and successfully than that of perhaps any other poet of our age to the new self-consciousness of the modern world. But in achieving this, Joyce has ceased to write verse. I have suggested, in connection with Valery and Eliot, that verse itself as a literary medium is coming to be used for fewer and fewer and for more and more special purposes, and that it may be destined to fall into disuse.

No comments:

Post a Comment