The Novelist as Philosopher [Book Review]

Review of Metaphysics 21 (1):170-171 (1967)

The assumption underlying this collection of essays is that recent developments in philosophy and fiction have brought them closer than they have been. Novelists' insights into the ambiguity of experience, and, at the same time, philosophy's trend towards concreteness in such areas as phenomenology, point to areas of rapprochement. What the novel can do, philosophically speaking, is to formulate "the initial stages of... metaphysical thinking," and "carry out an imaginative or emotional exploration of a system of thought." In his introduction, Cruickshank suggests that the French novel has developed along these lines, in the generation which begins with Bernanos and continues through Robbe-Grillet. Most of these essays explore philosophical ideas in the novels without showing how radical developments in technique actually affect them. Martin Esslin takes this further step where he notes that because of Queneau's belief in the meaninglessness of the world, the artist has creative freedom. Queneau's linguistic innovations derive in large part from this principle. Only Geoffrey Hartman, in his discussion of Blanchot, takes this vexed question of the relation between philosophy and literature down its labyrinthine paths to the point where one becomes legitimately the embodiment of the other. While many of these essays are conventional literary criticism, the best of them interpret the title in its boldest sense, and show how philosophical intent can alter the very fabric of the novel, while, alternatively, the novelist can offer genuine insight into philosophical issues.—C. L. B.
Keywords Catholic Tradition  Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest
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ISBN(s) 0034-6632
DOI revmetaph1967211236
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