“In his other writings Taine is known for his attempt to provide a scientific account of literature, a project that has led him to be linked to sociological positivists, although there were important differences. In his view, the work of literature was the product of the author’s environment, and an analysis of that environment could yield a perfect understanding of that work; this stands in contrast with the view that the work of literature is the spontaneous creation of genius”

From: Hippolyte Taine – Wikipedia


Your first novels seem to be primarily character studies and the later books are more concerned with themes.


I think you’re right. You look at people and realize they’re all part of some theme whether they like it or not. And all you have to do is perceive the theme and you can fit all kinds of people into the pattern. I used to not be able to see so much at once. I think I had a very narrow vision. I had a very narrow life and so I began with character and with one particular situation: like having an illegitimate baby or having to go where your husband’s job is. Now that seems to me very restricting. Too particular. On the other hand, if you lose a sense of particularity, then your writing becomes very boring. It’s a struggle to keep the balance between the two now.”

From: Margaret Drabble, The Art of Fiction No. 70

“There is a profound connection between photography and writing for me, a connection I have built for myself across many channels: I make books that set my photographs and my writing side by side, I write photography criticism, I embed descriptions of photographs in my fiction, and I’m even interested in photographers who are also writers (Evans, Ghirri), or writers who are also photographers (Campany). Because of these many connections, my approach to photography and to writing, which were rather far apart to begin with, have in recent years begun to sort of merge.”

From: Fernweh: An Interview with Teju Cole

“I also saw that invariably what made the work of a good book affecting—and this was something implicit in the writing, trapped somewhere in the nerves of the prose—was some haunted imagining (as though coming from the primeval unconscious) of human existence with the rift healed, the parts brought together, the hunger for connection put in brilliant working order. Great literature, I thought then and think now, is a record not of the achievement of wholeness of being but of the ingrained effort made on its behalf.”

From: Notes of a Chronic Rereader