The Novel, Volume 1: History, Geography, and Culture

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Overview

Nearly as global in its ambition and sweep as its subject, Franco Moretti's The Novel is a watershed event in the understanding of the first truly planetary literary form. A translated selection from the epic five-volume Italian Il Romanzo (2001-2003), The Novel's two volumes are a unified multiauthored reference work, containing more than one hundred specially commissioned essays by leading contemporary critics from around the world. Providing the first international comparative reassessment of the novel, these essential volumes reveal the form in unprecedented depth and breadth—as a great cultural, social, and human phenomenon that stretches from the ancient Greeks to today, where modernity itself is unimaginable without the genre.

By viewing the novel as much more than an aesthetic form, this landmark collection demonstrates how the genre has transformed human emotions and behavior, and the very perception of reality. Historical, statistical, and formal analyses show the novel as a complex literary system, in which new forms proliferate in every period and place.

Volume 1: History, Geography, and Culture, looks at the novel mostly from the outside, treating the transition from oral to written storytelling and the rise of narrative and fictionality, and covering the ancient Greek novel, the novel in premodern China, the early Spanish novel, and much else, including readings of novels from around the world.

These books will be essential reading for all students and scholars of literature.

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Editorial Reviews

Choice
This two-volume set is the most important resource on the novel now available. Like the novel itself, this work spans the globe and the centuries. . . . Essential.
Nation
[A] very ambitious collection . . . . The Novel is an impressive achievement, and precisely because Moretti was so willing to include perspectives that diverge sharply from his own.
— William Deresiewicz
London Review of Books
Moretti and his contributors have succeeded in making the study of the novel—if not the entire 'literary field'—'longer, larger and deeper' than it was before, or than any single scholar could ever make it.
— David Trotter
Times Literary Supplement
It's a rare literary critic who attracts so much public attention, and there's good reason: few are as hell-bent on rethinking the way we talk about literature. . . . There's no question that people will still be talking about these volumes twenty-five years from now.
— Eric Bluson
BookForum
The most crucial aspect of the Il romanzo project is the idea driving it to see literature globally, to free 'the novel' from its modernist, strictly Western center of emergence and consider instead how the form has mutated around the world, and why.
— Emilie Bickerton
The New York Sun
When you open The Novel . . . you may think you know what a novel is; by the time you close it . . . you are no longer sure. . . . The sheer diversity of topics here is exciting and opens up many new horizons. . . . It is impossible to understand why the novel has been the quintessential modern art form, and why it has appealed to writers and readers around the globe, without understanding the circumstances of its rise in Western Europe in the 18th century. . . . [I]t helped to incarnate the modern sensibility, and to teach its readers what it means to be modern. . . . If the novel is indeed losing its central position in our imaginative life . . . it can only be because modernity itself is slipping away, with all it distinctive promise and menace.
— Adam Kirsch
The New Statesman
Hugely ambitious. . . . Explores fiction with a capaciousness that's exhilarating as well as eye-opening, as a galactic crew of critics swoop in on subjects ranging from ancient China to Toni Morrison.
— Marina Warner
Novel: A Forum on Fiction
Moretti's ability in his own criticism to use a playful, informal style is quite remarkable; he quickly puts readers at ease as he calls into question a great deal of what they think they know about narrative. . . . In short, both the range and the content of these essays are exceptionally lively and dynamic, and the writing is sophisticated.
— Brian Evenson
La Stampa
Praise for Italian edition: "[The Novel is a] heroic attempt to capture the great animal of words that we call The Novel. The hunting strategy employed by Franco Moretti and his contributors proves complex and articulated but at the same time oblique and diversified. A merely systematic work could never handle this subject. Neither could a totally anarchic approach . . . This work is destined to occupy an important place in contemporary reflections on the novel and on narrative forms in general. The essays are agile but not superficial, specialized but readable, and current . . . More than anything else, [The Novel] arouses one's desire to read and reread literary works.
— Dario Voltolini
Il Mattino
Praise for Italian edition: "There are books that you read and reread, others that you consult when useful or just for the pleasure . . . [The Novel] belongs to both categories because it is much more than a mere collection of essays on a specific subject (in this case, the novel as literary genre, reinterpreted through contributions by novelists, critics, philosophers, anthropologists, and historians from every part of the world). Its changing, evocative flavors are so mouthwatering that it is like a platter of tapas, the little appetizers served by Catalans before a meal, which often take the place of an entire meal. The topic is books—a continuous game of citations and reflections. From the outset, it gives the reader symptoms of an ancient hunger. We are not sure what pushes us to read it and we try to grab and hold on to as much of it as possible . . . [The Novel] is not a book. It is a Pantagruelian feast that awakens limitless appetites. It helps to remind us how many flavors can be found in literature and—above all—how many we have lost by eating fast food for the brain.
— Diego De Silva
L'Unita
Praise for Italian edition: "[These] interesting, useful books . . . are not humble, simply informative manuals: they offer essays that lead in multiple directions and examine fundamental problems and questions. They assess the breadth of current studies and they establish an analytical horizon for advanced contemporary culture.
— Giulio Ferrot
London Review Bookshop
There is a great deal to relish here...Moretti and his contributors have succeeded in making the study of the novel—if not the entire 'literary field'—'longer, larger and deeper' that it was before, or than any single scholar could ever make it.
Library Journal
Over the last 30 years, our understanding of the origins and nature of the novel has dramatically expanded. The more than 100 essays collected in these two volumes edited by Moretti (English & comparative literature, Stanford Univ.; Signs Taken for Wonders) survey the current thinking. They are selected and translated from the five-volume Il romanzo, originally published in Italy between 2001 and 2003. Included are articles by a number of familiar names among contemporary authorities, including A.S. Byatt, Thomas Pavel, Andrew Plaks, and Frederic Jameson. The first volume focuses on rethinking the origins and history of the novel and its range across national and linguistic boundaries. The second focuses more on matters of form and type. The articles in each volume are divided between general statements and critical assessments of individual works. Each has its own footnotes as appropriate; there is no collective bibliography. An essential resource for all academic collections serving students of language and literature.-Thomas L. Cooksey, Armstrong State Coll., Savannah, GA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
BookForum
The most crucial aspect of the Il romanzo project is the idea driving it to see literature globally, to free 'the novel' from its modernist, strictly Western center of emergence and consider instead how the form has mutated around the world, and why.
— Emilie Bickerton
Times Literary Supplement
It's a rare literary critic who attracts so much public attention, and there's good reason: few are as hell-bent on rethinking the way we talk about literature. . . . There's no question that people will still be talking about these volumes twenty-five years from now.
— Eric Bluson
London Review of Books
Moretti and his contributors have succeeded in making the study of the novel—if not the entire 'literary field'—'longer, larger and deeper' than it was before, or than any single scholar could ever make it.
— David Trotter
Nation
[A] very ambitious collection . . . . The Novel is an impressive achievement, and precisely because Moretti was so willing to include perspectives that diverge sharply from his own.
— William Deresiewicz
Il Mattino
Praise for Italian edition: There are books that you read and reread, others that you consult when useful or just for the pleasure . . . [The Novel] belongs to both categories because it is much more than a mere collection of essays on a specific subject (in this case, the novel as literary genre, reinterpreted through contributions by novelists, critics, philosophers, anthropologists, and historians from every part of the world). Its changing, evocative flavors are so mouthwatering that it is like a platter of tapas, the little appetizers served by Catalans before a meal, which often take the place of an entire meal. The topic is books—a continuous game of citations and reflections. From the outset, it gives the reader symptoms of an ancient hunger. We are not sure what pushes us to read it and we try to grab and hold on to as much of it as possible . . . [The Novel] is not a book. It is a Pantagruelian feast that awakens limitless appetites. It helps to remind us how many flavors can be found in literature and—above all—how many we have lost by eating fast food for the brain.
— Diego De Silva
La Stampa
Praise for Italian edition: [The Novel is a] heroic attempt to capture the great animal of words that we call The Novel. The hunting strategy employed by Franco Moretti and his contributors proves complex and articulated but at the same time oblique and diversified. A merely systematic work could never handle this subject. Neither could a totally anarchic approach . . . This work is destined to occupy an important place in contemporary reflections on the novel and on narrative forms in general. The essays are agile but not superficial, specialized but readable, and current . . . More than anything else, [The Novel] arouses one's desire to read and reread literary works.
— Dario Voltolini
L'Unita
Praise for Italian edition: [These] interesting, useful books . . . are not humble, simply informative manuals: they offer essays that lead in multiple directions and examine fundamental problems and questions. They assess the breadth of current studies and they establish an analytical horizon for advanced contemporary culture.
— Giulio Ferrot
Choice
This two-volume set is the most important resource on the novel now available. Like the novel itself, this work spans the globe and the centuries. . . . Essential.
London Review Bookshop
There is a great deal to relish here...Moretti and his contributors have succeeded in making the study of the novel—if not the entire 'literary field'—'longer, larger and deeper' that it was before, or than any single scholar could ever make it.
The New York Sun
When you open The Novel . . . you may think you know what a novel is; by the time you close it . . . you are no longer sure. . . . The sheer diversity of topics here is exciting and opens up many new horizons. . . . It is impossible to understand why the novel has been the quintessential modern art form, and why it has appealed to writers and readers around the globe, without understanding the circumstances of its rise in Western Europe in the 18th century. . . . [I]t helped to incarnate the modern sensibility, and to teach its readers what it means to be modern. . . . If the novel is indeed losing its central position in our imaginative life . . . it can only be because modernity itself is slipping away, with all it distinctive promise and menace.
— Adam Kirsch
The New Statesman
Hugely ambitious. . . . Explores fiction with a capaciousness that's exhilarating as well as eye-opening, as a galactic crew of critics swoop in on subjects ranging from ancient China to Toni Morrison.
— Marina Warner
Novel: A Forum on Fiction
Moretti's ability in his own criticism to use a playful, informal style is quite remarkable; he quickly puts readers at ease as he calls into question a great deal of what they think they know about narrative. . . . In short, both the range and the content of these essays are exceptionally lively and dynamic, and the writing is sophisticated.
— Brian Evenson
Bookforum

The most crucial aspect of the Il romanzo project is the idea driving it to see literature globally, to free 'the novel' from its modernist, strictly Western center of emergence and consider instead how the form has mutated around the world, and why.
— Emilie Bickerton
Novel: A Forum on Fiction

Moretti's ability in his own criticism to use a playful, informal style is quite remarkable; he quickly puts readers at ease as he calls into question a great deal of what they think they know about narrative. . . . In short, both the range and the content of these essays are exceptionally lively and dynamic, and the writing is sophisticated.
— Brian Evenson
BookForum - Emilie Bickerton
The most crucial aspect of the Il romanzo project is the idea driving it to see literature globally, to free 'the novel' from its modernist, strictly Western center of emergence and consider instead how the form has mutated around the world, and why.
Times Literary Supplement - Eric Bluson
It's a rare literary critic who attracts so much public attention, and there's good reason: few are as hell-bent on rethinking the way we talk about literature. . . . There's no question that people will still be talking about these volumes twenty-five years from now.
London Review of Books - David Trotter
Moretti and his contributors have succeeded in making the study of the novel—if not the entire 'literary field'—'longer, larger and deeper' than it was before, or than any single scholar could ever make it.
Nation - William Deresiewicz
[A] very ambitious collection . . . . The Novel is an impressive achievement, and precisely because Moretti was so willing to include perspectives that diverge sharply from his own.
The New York Sun - Adam Kirsch
When you open The Novel . . . you may think you know what a novel is; by the time you close it . . . you are no longer sure. . . . The sheer diversity of topics here is exciting and opens up many new horizons. . . . It is impossible to understand why the novel has been the quintessential modern art form, and why it has appealed to writers and readers around the globe, without understanding the circumstances of its rise in Western Europe in the 18th century. . . . [I]t helped to incarnate the modern sensibility, and to teach its readers what it means to be modern. . . . If the novel is indeed losing its central position in our imaginative life . . . it can only be because modernity itself is slipping away, with all it distinctive promise and menace.
Novel: A Forum on Fiction - Leah Price
No reader will come away from these volumes without a long list of novels they now want to read—novels, in many cases, well-known within their own linguistic or national tradition but unfamiliar outside of it. . . . [This is] a project so capacious, so audacious, so polyvocal—in a word, so novel.
The New Statesman - Marina Warner
Hugely ambitious. . . . Explores fiction with a capaciousness that's exhilarating as well as eye-opening, as a galactic crew of critics swoop in on subjects ranging from ancient China to Toni Morrison.
Novel: A Forum on Fiction - Brian Evenson
Moretti's ability in his own criticism to use a playful, informal style is quite remarkable; he quickly puts readers at ease as he calls into question a great deal of what they think they know about narrative. . . . In short, both the range and the content of these essays are exceptionally lively and dynamic, and the writing is sophisticated.
Il Mattino - Diego De Silva
Praise for Italian edition: There are books that you read and reread, others that you consult when useful or just for the pleasure . . . [The Novel] belongs to both categories because it is much more than a mere collection of essays on a specific subject (in this case, the novel as literary genre, reinterpreted through contributions by novelists, critics, philosophers, anthropologists, and historians from every part of the world). Its changing, evocative flavors are so mouthwatering that it is like a platter of tapas, the little appetizers served by Catalans before a meal, which often take the place of an entire meal. The topic is books—a continuous game of citations and reflections. From the outset, it gives the reader symptoms of an ancient hunger. We are not sure what pushes us to read it and we try to grab and hold on to as much of it as possible . . . [The Novel] is not a book. It is a Pantagruelian feast that awakens limitless appetites. It helps to remind us how many flavors can be found in literature and—above all—how many we have lost by eating fast food for the brain.
La Stampa - Dario Voltolini
Praise for Italian edition: [The Novel is a] heroic attempt to capture the great animal of words that we call The Novel. The hunting strategy employed by Franco Moretti and his contributors proves complex and articulated but at the same time oblique and diversified. A merely systematic work could never handle this subject. Neither could a totally anarchic approach . . . This work is destined to occupy an important place in contemporary reflections on the novel and on narrative forms in general. The essays are agile but not superficial, specialized but readable, and current . . . More than anything else, [The Novel] arouses one's desire to read and reread literary works.
L'Unita - Giulio Ferrot
Praise for Italian edition: [These] interesting, useful books . . . are not humble, simply informative manuals: they offer essays that lead in multiple directions and examine fundamental problems and questions. They assess the breadth of current studies and they establish an analytical horizon for advanced contemporary culture.
From the Publisher
Honorable Mention for the 2006 Award for Best Professional/Scholarly Book in Multi Volume Reference Works/Humanities & Social Sciences, Association of American Publishers

One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2007

"The most crucial aspect of the Il romanzo project is the idea driving it to see literature globally, to free 'the novel' from its modernist, strictly Western center of emergence and consider instead how the form has mutated around the world, and why."—Emilie Bickerton, Bookforum

"It's a rare literary critic who attracts so much public attention, and there's good reason: few are as hell-bent on rethinking the way we talk about literature. . . . There's no question that people will still be talking about these volumes twenty-five years from now."—Eric Bluson, Times Literary Supplement

"Moretti and his contributors have succeeded in making the study of the novel—if not the entire 'literary field'—'longer, larger and deeper' than it was before, or than any single scholar could ever make it."—David Trotter, London Review of Books

"[A] very ambitious collection . . . . The Novel is an impressive achievement, and precisely because Moretti was so willing to include perspectives that diverge sharply from his own."—William Deresiewicz, Nation

Praise for Italian edition: "There are books that you read and reread, others that you consult when useful or just for the pleasure . . . [The Novel] belongs to both categories because it is much more than a mere collection of essays on a specific subject (in this case, the novel as literary genre, reinterpreted through contributions by novelists, critics, philosophers, anthropologists, and historians from every part of the world). Its changing, evocative flavors are so mouthwatering that it is like a platter of tapas, the little appetizers served by Catalans before a meal, which often take the place of an entire meal. The topic is books—a continuous game of citations and reflections. From the outset, it gives the reader symptoms of an ancient hunger. We are not sure what pushes us to read it and we try to grab and hold on to as much of it as possible . . . [The Novel] is not a book. It is a Pantagruelian feast that awakens limitless appetites. It helps to remind us how many flavors can be found in literature and—above all—how many we have lost by eating fast food for the brain."—Diego De Silva, Il Mattino

Praise for Italian edition: "[The Novel is a] heroic attempt to capture the great animal of words that we call The Novel. The hunting strategy employed by Franco Moretti and his contributors proves complex and articulated but at the same time oblique and diversified. A merely systematic work could never handle this subject. Neither could a totally anarchic approach . . . This work is destined to occupy an important place in contemporary reflections on the novel and on narrative forms in general. The essays are agile but not superficial, specialized but readable, and current . . . More than anything else, [The Novel] arouses one's desire to read and reread literary works."—Dario Voltolini, La Stampa

Praise for Italian edition: [These] interesting, useful books . . . are not humble, simply informative manuals: they offer essays that lead in multiple directions and examine fundamental problems and questions. They assess the breadth of current studies and they establish an analytical horizon for advanced contemporary culture."—Giulio Ferrot, L'Unita

"When you open The Novel . . . you may think you know what a novel is; by the time you close it . . . you are no longer sure. . . . The sheer diversity of topics here is exciting and opens up many new horizons. . . . It is impossible to understand why the novel has been the quintessential modern art form, and why it has appealed to writers and readers around the globe, without understanding the circumstances of its rise in Western Europe in the 18th century. . . . [I]t helped to incarnate the modern sensibility, and to teach its readers what it means to be modern. . . . If the novel is indeed losing its central position in our imaginative life . . . it can only be because modernity itself is slipping away, with all it distinctive promise and menace."—Adam Kirsch, The New York Sun

"An essential resource for all academic collections serving students of language and literature."—Thomas L. Cooksey, Library Journal
"This two-volume set is the most important resource on the novel now available. Like the novel itself, this work spans the globe and the centuries. . . . Essential."—Choice

"No reader will come away from these volumes without a long list of novels they now want to read—novels, in many cases, well-known within their own linguistic or national tradition but unfamiliar outside of it. . . . [This is] a project so capacious, so audacious, so polyvocal—in a word, so novel."—Leah Price, Novel: A Forum on Fiction

"There is a great deal to relish here...Moretti and his contributors have succeeded in making the study of the novel—if not the entire 'literary field'—'longer, larger and deeper' that it was before, or than any single scholar could ever make it."—London Review Bookshop

"Hugely ambitious. . . . Explores fiction with a capaciousness that's exhilarating as well as eye-opening, as a galactic crew of critics swoop in on subjects ranging from ancient China to Toni Morrison."—Marina Warner, The New Statesman

"Moretti's ability in his own criticism to use a playful, informal style is quite remarkable; he quickly puts readers at ease as he calls into question a great deal of what they think they know about narrative. . . . In short, both the range and the content of these essays are exceptionally lively and dynamic, and the writing is sophisticated."—Brian Evenson, Novel: A Forum on Fiction

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691049472
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 5/22/2006
  • Pages: 928
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 2.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Franco Moretti is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Stanford University, where he founded the Center for the Study of the Novel. He is the author of "Signs Taken for Wonders, The Way of the World, Modern Epic, Atlas of the European Novel 1800-1900," and "Graphs, Maps, Trees".

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Read an Excerpt

The Novel, Volume 1: History, Geography, and Culture


Princeton University Press

Copyright © 2006 Princeton University Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-691-04947-5


Chapter One

ROBERTO SCHWARZ

Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas (J. M. Machado de Assis, Brazil, 1880)

Between 1880 and 1908, Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis wrote four or five novels and several dozen stories of world-class caliber, masterpieces much above what Brazilian literature-inclusive of Machado's own earlier production-had offered up to that time. These are works that distance themselves from the romantic mixture of local color, the romanesque, and patriotism, or rather, from the facile and infallible formula in which the reading public of this young nation reveled. The difference, which is not merely one of degree, has a great reach and deserves reflection.

In this case, the change did not exclude necessary continuities, but transfigured them. As one critic astutely observed, Machado de Assis "meticulously steeped himself in the work of his predecessors," acutely conscious of their adroit description of social customs and accurate analytic effort. The limitations and inconsistencies of those same models, similarly, did not escape Machado. With a spirit notably aimed at overcoming those limitations, he sought to correct and-discreetly-ironize, by reprising in a less innocent key, the thematic and formal framework developed by his predecessors, and forthat matter, in his own previous works. The justness of his rectifications stems from his malicious sensitivity to social functions and to the specificity of the country, suited to satirical study.

Thus, a localized and recent tradition, permeated with European models and bearing the signs of recent decolonialization, culminated in an unanticipated series of masterpieces. Machado's rearrangement of material and form elevated a modest, secondhand fictional universe to the level of complexity of the most advanced contemporary art. In order to underscore the particular interest of that transformation, one could say that Machado's action on the literary plane incorporates an overcoming of the sorts of alienation proper to colonial heritage.

Machado's daring was timid at first, limited to the sphere of family life, within which he analyzed the perspectives and inequities of paternalism Brazilian-style, supported by slavery and vexed by liberal ideas. Without being disrespectful, he subjected to examination the unacceptable deprecation of dependents and, at the opposite pole, the arbitrariness of proprietors, equally unacceptable, though under the guise of civilization. As far as genre, his fiction represented a decorous realism, whose reading public was the Brazilian family. As far as content, Machado set his sights on and incisively investigated a characteristic complex of relationships resulting from the renewal of colonial inequalities in the newly independent nation, commited to the new concepts of freedom and progress.

Subsequently, from 1880 onward, Machado's daring becomes more encompassing and spectacular, affronting the presuppositions of realist fiction, that is, the nineteenth-century scaffolding of the bourgeois status quo. The novelty of his work lies in the narrator, humorous and aggressively arbitrary, functioning like a formal principle, subjecting characters, literary convention, and even the reader, not to mention the authority of the narrative form, to periodic feints. The narrator's intrusions range from light impertinence to unbridled aggression. Very deliberate, his infractions neither ignore nor cancel the norms they affront; but, at the same time, these are derided and rendered inactive, relegated to a status of half-valence that aptly encapsulates the ambivalent position of modern culture in peripheral countries. Necessary to that rule of composition, transgressions of every kind repeat themselves with the regularity of a universal law. The devastating sense of a Nothingness that forms in the wake of this composition deserves a capital letter, insofar as it is the final sum of an experience, in anticipation of other rules remaining to be trampled. As for the artistic climate of the epoch, this ending in a Nothingness is a replica, under a different sky, of what was being done by the French postromantics, described by Sartre as "knights of nonbeing." At first glance, Machado was trading an awkward and provincial sphere for another that was emphatically universal and philosophical, which lent itself to interpolations, digressions, and doubts of the kind that haunted Hamlet. This was a sphere that, incidentally, did not lack the note of cheap metaphysics, rediscovering a provincial tone on a more literate level (a splendid and modern finding). We might note that in this second mode, that of his great works, the first universe remains present, as anecdotal material-but not only that.

In their most conspicuous aspects, Machado's provocations recycled an erudite and refined range of prerealist conventions, in open defiance of the nineteenth- century sense of reality and of its objectivity. According to the Author's own warnings, he now adopted "the free form of a Sterne, or of a Xavier de Maistre," referring, above all, to the digressive arbitrariness of the eighteenth- century European novel. Nevertheless, and contrary to what a breaking of rules might make one suppose, the spirit of Machado's work was incisively realist, propelled as much by an implacable social logic as by the task of capturing its peculiarly Brazilian character. And it was also postrealist, interested in reflecting in a poor light the verisimilitude of the bourgeois order, opening up to visitation its unconfessed aspects, unmasking it in the modern manner that would prevail at the end of the century. The degree of historical paradox in this mode of composition is high, but functional in its own way, as we will see. Be that as it may, it presupposed a new kind of literary and intellectual culture in the country.

Ironic dealings with the Bible, the classics, philosophy, and science; continual formal experimentation, fed by advanced ideas on the dynamics of the unconscious, by a disabused perspicacity with regard to material interests and by personal social reflection cognizant of national particularities and of the dubious sides of nationalism; independence also in the adoption of foreign inspiration, sought outside the contemporary French and Portuguese mainstream and, moreover, adapted to Brazilian circumstance with memorable ingenuity; competition with naturalism, whose simple determinisms (so convincing and wrong in the context of the tropical ex-colony) Machado countered with complex causations no less powerful (but clear of racism): confidence in the potency of "free form," whose effects his narrator does not comment on in their most essential aspects or who does so only with the intent of confounding, compelling the reader to establish and reexamine them for himself-all of these were more or less unscripted innovations. If we add to this the cosmopolitan mien of his prose and the superior intelligence of his formulations in a country in which even today intelligence does not seem to be counted among artistic faculties, we have a basis to imagine that there is no common denominator between this universe and that of the fiction that preceded it.

Until the Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas (1880)-the work that marked Machado's turnabout-the Brazilian novel was narrated by a compatriot worthy of applause, whose speech was set loose by the beauty of the country's beaches and forests, the grace of its young maidens and its popular customs, not to mention the stupendous achievements of Rio de Janeiro. Beyond being an artist, the person who directly or indirectly extolled the country was an ally in the civic campaign for a national identity and culture. The narrator of Posthumous Memoirs is of another type: deprived of credibility (insofar as he presents himself in the impossible position of being defunct), Bras Cubas is spiteful, partial, intrusive, absurdly inconsistent, given to mystification and indignant insinuation, capable of baseness in relation to other characters and the reader, and, at the same time, notably cultivated-setting a sort of standard of elegance-and capable of composing the best prose on the market. The internal disparity is disconcerting and highly problematic, resulting in a figure unequal to the previous national standard.

In principle, the obligation to respect the reader, verisimilitude, temporal and spatial continuities, coherence, and so forth, transcends geographical and linguistic borders. The same thing goes for the transgressions against common sense, in which the Machadian narrator revels: these are also situated in the abstract and transnational sphere of social standars, in which universal (as opposed to Brazilian) questions concerning civilized humankind are at play. Whether deeming Machado's narrator correct or incorrect, arguing against him or in favor, this was the common view among the critics of the day. The literary pirouettes performed by Brás Cubas, who does not lend himself to being respected, are plotted by these critics in terms of coordinates related to metaphysical and cosmopolitan lines, unattached to local material, on which they lean, nevertheless. According to one adversary, Machado took refuge in philosophical and formalist affectations, and peculiarly English ones, in order to avert the battles of the Brazilian writer. Others, fed up with the picturesque and provincial, and desirous of civilization proper (that is, European and unashamed of the backwardness around them), greeted Machado as the country's first writer in the full sense of the term.

In sum, the arguments were more or less the following. In changing the rules of the game in the very face of the reader, only to change them again immediately, the narrator engages in a kind of dissolute jesting, in poor taste, unworthy of a serious Brazilian, and poorly disguising both an intellectual incapacity and a lack of narrative stamina. In the other camp, the same affronts indicated a formally adept artist, a skeptical and civilized spirit, for whom the world lent itself to doubt and was not reduced to narrow national limits. Thus, sympathizers and opponents were both of the opinion that Machado retreated from Brazilian particularity, whether to interrogate the human condition or to devote himself to "the comedy of the almanac, the pessimism of ephemeral hack writing, which manages to delude those few simpletons who find it marvelous." The idea that Brazilian reality did not pose universal problems, and vice versa, was common to both sides, reflecting the persistence of colonial segregation. "The instability to which I refer stems from the fact that in America the landscape, life, the horizon, architecture, everything that surrounds us lacks a historical basis, a human perspective; and from the fact that in Europe we lack our homeland, that is, the form in which each of us was cast at birth. On one side of the sea we feel the absence of the world; on the other, the absence of the country." The dissonance between the local note and ostensible universalism was discomfiting, but not uncharacteristic. For whomever had ears to hear, the mutual estrangement comprised a necessary and representative accord that formalized, in microcosmic terms, an alienation of world-historical proportions as much as a dissonance. Machado comprehended the comic impasse inherent in this tonal disparity and, instead of avoiding it, made of it a central element in his literary art. Thus, the erudite, highly experienced narrator, the humanist disdainful of the idiocies and inconsequentialities in which our humanity is wrapped up, and intimately familiar with the Bible, Homer, Lucian, Erasmus, Shakespeare, the French moralists, Pascal-is just half of the picture, and a less absolute part than it might seem. The other half emerges when we consider him as one character among others, defined by characteristics typical in their manifestation of local malformation, the very characteristics that the narrative playfulness and the corresponding climate of metaphysical farce make us overlook as irrelevant details. One need only put together these two halves for the picture to change. We then observe that in real life (within the fiction) the virtuoso of literary-philosophical feints is a proprietor Brazilian-style, master of slaves, versed in relations of clientelism, adherent to European conceptions of progress, and partner in the postcolonial joint venture of domination.

The montage is slightly unforeseen, but transforms the terms that integrate it, bringing into focus a remarkable social type, with similarly remarkable social repercussions and a profound historical reach. The infractions against narrative equity take on different dimensions: through the narrator, they are assimilated to a sui generis group of proprietary prerogatives, proper to the national picture of class distinctions, differing significantly from the universalist terrain of rhetorical art and at odds with civilized social standards. From the liberal and European standpoint, from whose authority there was no means of escape, these prerogatives were insulting-which did not keep them from taking part in the douceur de vivre passed on by the colony and, on the other hand, from echoing the new moral carelessness cultivated by imperialism. In its own way, creating a rhythm with its own rules, the affront to literary fair play metaphorically stood for the admixture of regal privilege and illegitimacy that the nineteenth century linked to direct personal domination. Inserted in the field of international inequities, the capacity for coinage began to be exercised at a pole that until then had not exercised its power, a peripheral pole, that inverts perspectives and forces the recalibration of standards of measurements: the Western literary tradition is solicited and deformed in such a way as to manifest the delights and moral contortions, or simply the differences, linked with that historically reproved form of class domination, and it imprints on that tradition, together with its vitality, its contravening stamp. One substantial critical consequence of the flexibility with which high culture lends itself to this role is that high culture itself is then seen in a less estimable, or more sarcastic, light. At the same time, this social type, which might be considered exotic and remote, and more of an operetta-like cliché than a problem, is developed in terms of the magnitude of its effects in contemporary world culture, within which it comes to be a discrete pivot.

In other terms, the liberties taken with formal convention represent, beyond rhetorical caper, what had been a dimly lit sector of the contemporary scene. They extend to the plane of culture and to the presuppositions of nineteenth-century civility-the uncivilized power enjoyed by Brazilian proprietors in relation to poor or enslaved dependents. The literary accent falls back on aspects of irresponsibility and arbitrariness, as well as on the ins and outs of intra-elite connivance, which is its complement. In this case, there is an affinity between imaginative license and irresponsible power, or, along a parallel line, between disregarded literary forms and abused dependents, setting up an extraordinary play of mirrors. It is as if Brás Cubas were saying that the culture and civility that he esteems and of which he considers himself a part could continue to function in its own way without impeding him from taking advantage of his privileges-or even as if he were demonstrating, through the operation of scandal and everyday practice on the consecrated body of universal culture, the consequences of those same privileges. Thus, far from exchanging a small, irrelevant world (nevertheless, ours) for the prestigious (but falsified) universality of the being-or-not-being of forms, Machado linked the two planes, in order to open up, in the spirit of critical exposure, the sequestered universe that had been his point of departure. This is a heterodox example of the universalization of the particular and of the particularization of the universal, or of dialectic.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from The Novel, Volume 1: History, Geography, and Culture Copyright © 2006 by Princeton University Press. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

On The Novel ix

1.1. A STRUGGLE FOR SPACE 1

From Oral to Written: An Anthropological Breakthrough in Storytelling by JACK GOODY 3

The Control of the Imagination and the Novel by LUIZ COSTA LIMA 37

Historiography and Fiction in Chinese Culture by HENRY Y. H. ZHAO 69

The Novel on Trial by WALTER SITI 94

1.2. P OLYGENESIS

The Ancient Greek Novel: A Single Model or a Plurality of Forms? by TOMAS HÄGG 125

Medieval French Romance by ALBERTO VARVARO 156

The Novel in Premodern China by ANDREW H. PLAKS 181

Critical Apparatus: The Semantic Field of "Narrative"
Stefano Levi Della Torre, Midrash 217
Maurizio Bettini, Mythos/Fabula 225
Adriana Boscaro, Monogatari 241
Judith T. Zeitlin, Xiaoshuo 249
Abdelfattah Kilito, Qisa 262
Piero Boitani, Romance 269
Maria Di Salvo, Povest' 283

1.3. THE EUROPEAN ACCELERATION

The Short, Happy Life of the Novel in Spain by JOAN RAMON RESINA 291

313 Forms of Popular Narrative in France and England: 1700-1900 by DANIEL COU{{Eacute}}GNAS

The Rise of Fictionality by CATHERINE GALLAGHER 336

Serious Century by FRANCO MORETTI 364

The Ruse of the Russian Novel by WILLIAM MILLS TODD III 401

1.4. THE CIRCLE WIDENS

Critical Apparatus: The Market for Novels-Some Statistical Profiles
James Raven, Britain, 1750-1830 429
John Austin, United States, 1780-1850 455
Giovanni Ragone, Italy, 1815-1870 466
Elisa Martí-López and Mario Santana, Spain, 1843-1900 479
Priya Joshi, India, 1850-1900 495
Jonathan Zwicker, Japan, 1850-1900 509
Wendy Griswold, Nigeria, 1950-2000 521

The Sign of the Voice: Orality and Writing in the United States by ALESSANDRO PORTELLI 531

The Long Nineteenth Century of the Japanese Novel by JONATHAN ZWICKER 553

Epic and Novel in India by MEENAKSHI MUKHERJEE 596

The Novel of a Continent: Latin America by GERALD MARTIN 632

The Extroverted African Novel by EILEEN JULIEN 667

1.5. TOWARD WORLD LITERATURE

The Novelists' International by MICHAEL DENNING 703

Fecundities of the Unexpected: Magical Realism, Narrative, and History by ATO QUAYSON 726

Readings: Traditions in Contact

Abdelfattah Kilito, Al-Saq 'ala al-saq f im a huwa al-Faryaq
(Ahmad Faris Shidya q, Paris, 1855) 759
Norma Field, Drifting Clouds (Futabatei Shimei, Japan, 1887-1889) 766
Jale Parla, A Carriage Affair (Recaizade Mahmut Ekrem, Turkey, 1896) 775
Jongyon Hwang, The Heartless (Yi Kwangsu, Korea, 1917) 781
M. Keith Booker, Chaka (Thomas Mofolo, South Africa, 1925) 786
M. R. Ghanoonparvar, The Blind Owl (Sadeq Hedayat, Iran, 1941) 794

Readings: Americas

Alessandro Portelli, Uncle Tom's Cabin (Harriet Beecher Stowe, United States, 1852) 805
Roberto Schwarz, Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas ( J. M. Machado de Assis, Brazil, 1880) 816
Jonathan Arac, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain, United States, 1884) 841
Ernesto Franco, Pedro Páramo ( Juan Rulfo, Mexico, 1955) 855
Stephanie Merrim, Grande Sertão: Veredas ( João Guimarães Rosa, Brazil, 1956) 862
José Miguel Oviedo, The Death of Artemio Cruz (Carlos Fuentes, Mexico, 1962) 870
Clarisse Zimra, Lone Sun (Daniel Maximin, Guadeloupe, 1981) 876
Alessandro Portelli, Beloved (Toni Morrison, United States, 1987) 886

Contributors 893

Author Index 897

Works Cited Index 907

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