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Aspects of the Novel Aspects of the Novel by E.M. Forster
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“Long books, when read, are usually overpraised, because the reader wishes to convince others and himself that he has not wasted his time.”
E.M. Forster, Aspects of the Novel
“We move between two darknesses.”
E.M. Forster, Aspects of the Novel
“Expansion. That is the idea the novelist must cling to. Not completion. Not rounding off, but opening out.”
E.M. Forster, Aspects of the Novel
“Let us think of people as starting life with an experience they forget and ending it with one which they anticipate but cannot understand.”
E.M. Forster, Aspects of the Novel
“Books have to be read (worse luck, for it takes a long time); it is the only way of discovering what they contain.”
E.M. Forster, Aspects of the Novel
“The final test of a novel will be our affection for it, as it is the test of our friends, and of anything else which we cannot define.”
E.M. Forster, Aspects of the Novel
“Human beings have their great chance in the novel.”
E.M. Forster, Aspects of the Novel
“Most of us are pseudo-scholars...for we are a very large and quite a powerful class, eminent in Church and State, we control the education of the Empire, we lend to the Press such distinction as it consents to receive, and we are a welcome asset at dinner-parties.

Pseudo-scholarship is, on its good side, the homage paid by ignorance to learning. It also has an economic side, on which we need not be hard. Most of us must get a job before thirty, or sponge on our relatives, and many jobs can only be got by passing an exam. The pseudo-scholar often does well in examination (real scholars are not much good), and even when he fails he appreciates their inner majesty. They are gateways to employment, they have power to ban and bless. A paper on King Lear may lead somewhere, unlike the rather far-fetched play of the same name. It may be a stepping-stone to the Local Government Board. He does not often put it to himself openly and say, "That's the use of knowing things, they help you to get on." The economic pressure he feels is more often subconscious, and he goes to his exam, merely feeling that a paper on King Lear is a very tempestuous and terrible experience but an intensely real one. ...As long as learning is connected with earning, as long as certain jobs can only be reached through exams, so long must we take the examination system seriously. If another ladder to employment were contrived, much so-called education would disappear, and no one be a penny the stupider.”
E.M. Forster, جنبه‌های رمان
“If human nature does alter it will be because individuals manage to look at themselves in a new way. Here and there people — a very few people, but a few novelists are among them — are trying to do this. Every institution and vested interest is against such a search: organized religion, the State, the family in its economic aspect, have nothing to gain, and it is only when outward prohibitions weaken that it can proceed: history conditions it to that extent. Perhaps the searchers will fail, perhaps it is impossible for the instrument of contemplation to contemplate itself, perhaps if it is possible it means the end of imaginative literature — [...] anyhow—that way lies movement and even combustion for the novel, for if the novelist sees himself differently, he will see his characters differently and a new system of lighting will result.”
E.M. Forster, Aspects of the Novel
“The human mind is not a dignified organ, and I do not see how we can exercise it sincerely except through eclecticism. And the only advice I would offer my fellow eclectics is: "Do not be proud of your inconsistency. It is a pity, it is a pity that we should be equipped like this. It is a pity that Man cannot be at the same time impressive and truthful.”
E.M. Forster, Aspects of the Novel
“A mirror does not develop because an historical pageant passes in front of it. It only develops when it gets a fresh coat of quicksilver—in other words, when it acquires new sensitiveness; and the novel’s success lies in its own sensitiveness, not in the success of its subject matter.”
E.M. Forster, Aspects of the Novel
“Unless we remember we cannot understand.”
E.M. Forster, Aspects of the Novel
“No English novelist is as great as Tolstoy –that is to say, has given so complete a picture of man’s life, both on its domestic and heroic side. No English novelist has explored man’s soul as deeply as Dostoyevsky. And no novelist anywhere has analysed the modern consciousness as successfully as Marcel Proust.”
E.M. Forster, Aspects of the Novel
“Scheherazade avoided her fate because she knew how to wield the weapon of suspense –the only literary tool that has any effect upon tyrants and savages.”
E.M. Forster, Aspects of the Novel
“Human beings have their great chance in the novel. They say to the novelist: “Recreate us if you like, but we must come in,” and the novelist’s problem, as we have seen all along, is to give them a good run and to achieve something else at the same time. Whither shall he turn? not indeed for help but for analogy. Music, though it does not employ human beings, though it is governed by intricate laws, nevertheless does offer in its final expression a type of beauty which fiction might achieve in its own way. Expansion. That is the idea the novelist must cling to. Not completion. Not rounding off but opening out. When the symphony is over we feel that the notes and tunes composing it have been liberated, they have found in the rhythm of the whole their individual freedom. Cannot the novel be like that? Is not there something of it in War and Peace?-—the book with which we began and in which we must end. Such an untidy book. Yet, as we read it, do not great chords begin to sound behind us, and when we have finished does not every item—even the catalogue of strategies—lead a larger existence than was possible at the time?”
E.M. Forster, Aspects of the Novel
“Food, the stoking-up process, the keeping alive of an individual flame, the process that begins before birth and is continued after it by the mother, and finally taken over by the individual himself, who goes on day after day putting an assortment of objects into a hole in his face without becoming surprised or bored.”
E.M. Forster, Aspects of the Novel
“And that is why novels, even when they are about wicked people, can solace us: they suggest a more comprehensible and thus more manageable human race, they give us the illusion of perspicacity and of power.”
E.M. Forster, Aspects of the Novel
“We come up against beauty here — for the first time in our enquiry: beauty at which a novelist should never aim though he fails if he does not achieve it. I will conduct beauty to her proper place later on. Meanwhile please accept her as part of a completed plot. She looks a little surprised at being there, but beauty ought to look a little surprised: it is the emotion that best suits her face, as Botticelli knew when he painted her risen from the waves, between the winds and the flowers. The beauty who does not look surprised, who accepts her position as her due—she reminds us too much of a prima donna.”
E.M. Forster, Aspects of the Novel