'The novel is dead. As dead as alchemy.' He cut out with his hands, with the calipers, dismissing that as well. 'I realized that one day before the war. Do you know what I did? I burnt every novel I possessed. Dickens. Cervantes. Dostoievsky. Flaubert. All the great and all the small. I even burnt something I wrote myself when I was too young to know better. I burnt them out there. It took me all day. The sky took their smoke, the earth their ashes. It was a fumigation. I have been happier and healthier ever since.' I remembered my own small destroying; and thought, grand gestures are splendid--if you can afford them. He picked up a book and slapped the dust off it. 'Why should I struggle through hundreds of pages of fabrication to reach half a dozen very little truths?'Naturally, I wrote "Pure Evil" in the margin.
'Fun!' He pounced on the word. 'Words are for truth. For facts. Not fiction.'
'For this.' A life of Franklin Roosevelt. 'This.' A French paperback on astrophysics. 'This. Look at this.' It was an old pamphlet--An Alarme for Sinners, Containing the Last Words of the Murderer Robert Foulkes, 1679. 'There, take that and read it over the week-end. See if it is not more real than all the historical novels ever written.'
It's been surprisingly difficult to get into The Magus. Nicholas is a self-deluded cad--but he's supposed to be. It's Conchis I'm having trouble with. The guy is not impressing me at all and strikes me as inanely juvenile. A third of the way through, and the novel still feels hollow to me.
But I'm sticking with it. Fowles is definitely up to something--and I've found more references to the central idea of the above passage. I'll say more when I've safely gotten through it (and try not to choke on all the egotism and pseudo-intellectual fakery in the meantime).