26 April 2007

George Eliot on Realist Fiction

“So I am content to tell my simple story, without trying to make things seem better than they were; dreading nothing, indeed, but falsity, which, in spite of one’s best efforts, there is reason to dread. Falsehood is so easy, truth so difficult. The pencil is conscious of a delightful facility in drawing a griffin — the longer the claws, and the larger the wings, the better; but that marvellous facility which we mistook for genius is apt to forsake us when we want to draw a real unexaggerated lion. Examine your words well, and you will find that even when you have no motive to be false, it is a very hard thing to say the exact truth, even about your own immediate feelings — much harder than to say something fine about them which is NOT the exact truth.”

[George Eliot, from ‘Adam Bede (1859), Chapter XVII: In Which the Story Pauses a Little’, as quoted in www.ProjectedLetters.com, ‘Idealism & Realism’. The excerpt can be found here.]

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