He explained to James Williams, in an interview included in The Girard Reader, the epiphany that was connected with the writing of his first book, Deceit, Desire and the Novel: "I started working on that book very much in the pure demystification mode: cynical, destructive, very much in the spirit of the atheistic intellectuals of the time. I was engaged in debunking, and of course recognizing mimesis is a great debunking tool because it deprives us moderns of the one thing we still have left, our individual desire."(With thanks to Brook.)
"The debunking that actually occurs in this first book is probably one of the reasons why my concept of mimesis is still viewed as destructive," he said. "Yet I like to think that if you take this notion as far as you possibly can, you go through the ceiling, as it were, and discover what amounts to original sin. An experience of demystification, if radical enough, is very close to an experience of conversion."
He described his eventual realization this way: "The author's first draft is a self-justification." It may either focus on a wicked hero, the writer's scapegoat, who will be unmasked by the end of the novel; or it may have a good hero, the author's alter ego, who will be vindicated at novel's end.
If the writer is a good one, he will see "the trashiness of it all" by the time he finishes his first draft—that it's a "put-up job." The experience, said Girard, shatters the vanity and pride of the writer. "And this existential downfall is the event that makes a great work of art possible," Girard said.
06 July 2008
Just read this wonderful article on René Girard. He's still publishing--at 85: