Saturday, March 24, 2012

Ian McEwan on originality

In literature, everyone is first. We do not need to ask who was first to write Don Quixote. Better, in fact, to consider the possibility of being the second – Pierre Menard, who in Borges's famous story independently reconceives, centuries after Cervantes, the entire novel, down to the last word. The worst novelist in the world can at least be assured that he will be the first to write his terrible novel. And mercifully, the last. And yet, to be first, to originate, to be original is key to the quality of a work of literature. However minimally, it must advance – in subject matter, in means of expression – our understanding of ourselves, of ourselves in the world.

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