Winter 1961 • Vol. XXIII No. 1 Nonfiction |

Science, Politics, and the Novelist: Or the Fish and the Net

"A work of art is irreducible. A novel which is a work of art exists only as a structure of words, independent of the writer's intention. From the structure of words, the 'characters,' 'scenes,' must not be separated, for they have no meaning apart from the words. Within the verbal structure, discursion has no part. …" And so on, and so forth. There have been a great many silly critical approaches to the novel. It is a difficult choice to make, but after considering several strong competitors I am inclined to think that this may be the silliest. Take Tolstoy. For getting on for 100 years, there has been a substantial unanimity of opinion, felt with particular conviction among novelists themselves, that War and Peace is the greatest novel ever written. Words like "great," and "greatest," are, of course, to be treated with care; but occasionally they mean something. In this context, when anyone objects to one arranging novels in an order of merit, it only means that he has a dif

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