Reading Fiction is to Temporarily Believe Nonsense

The weather bureau will tell you what next Tuesday will be like, and the Rand Corporation will tell you what the twenty-first century will be like. I don't recommend that you turn to the writers of fiction for such information. It's none of their business. All they're trying to do is tell you what they're like, and what you're like—what's going on—what the weather is now, today, this moment, the rain, the sunlight, look! Open your eyes; listen, listen. That is what the novelists say. But they don't tell you what you will see and hear. All they can tell you is what they have seen and heard, in their time in this world, a third of it spent in sleep and dreaming, another third of it spent in telling lies.

“The truth against the world!”—Yes. Certainly. Fiction writers, at least in their braver moments, do desire the truth: to know it, speak it, serve it. But they go about it in a peculiarand devious way, which consists in inventing persons, places, and events which never did and never will exist or occur, and telling about these fictions in detail and at length and with a great deal of emotion, and then when they are done writing down this pack of lies, they say, There! That's the truth!

They may use all kinds of facts to support their tissue of lies. They may describe the Marshalsea Prison, which was a real place, or the battle of Borodino, which really was fought, or the process of cloning, which really takes place in laboratories, or the deterioration of a personality, which is described in real textbooks of psychology; and so on. This weight of verifiable place-event-phenomenon-behavior makes the reader forget that he is reading a pure invention, a history that never took place anywhere but in that unlocalisable region, the author's mind. In fact, while we read a novel, we are insane—bonkers. We believe in the existence of people who aren't there, we hear their voices, we watch the battle of Borodino with them, we may even become Napoleon. Sanity returns (in most cases) when the book is closed.


In reading a novel, any novel, we have to know perfectly well that the whole thing is nonsense, and then, while reading, believe every word of it. Finally, when we're done with it, we may find—if it's a good novel—that we're a bit different from what we were before we read it, that we have been changed a little, as if by having met a new face, crossed a street we never crossed before. But it's very hard to say just what we learned, how we were changed.


Folksonomies: fiction truth lies

/art and entertainment/books and literature/non-fiction (0.629905)
/science/weather (0.442792)
/hobbies and interests/reading (0.424180)

peculiarand devious way (0.923397 (negative:-0.322234)), Nonsense The weather (0.732527 (negative:-0.599616)), twenty-first century (0.732275 (neutral:0.000000)), Rand Corporation (0.720940 (neutral:0.000000)), braver moments (0.711107 (negative:-0.431817)), Marshalsea Prison (0.694692 (negative:-0.272906)), verifiable place-event-phenomenon-behavior (0.680815 (positive:0.275201)), great deal (0.670328 (positive:0.383188)), Sanity returns (0.665735 (positive:0.565431)), unlocalisable region (0.661837 (neutral:0.000000)), good novel—that (0.660957 (positive:0.398557)), pure invention (0.659342 (positive:0.275201)), Fiction writers (0.658697 (positive:0.294586)), real textbooks (0.657594 (neutral:0.000000)), new face (0.653096 (neutral:0.000000)), real place (0.647444 (neutral:0.000000)), lies (0.608624 (negative:-0.305096)), truth (0.585788 (neutral:0.000000)), Borodino (0.567054 (negative:-0.370223)), world (0.505997 (neutral:0.000000)), battle (0.495781 (negative:-0.370223)), novelists (0.466873 (neutral:0.000000)), sunlight (0.462102 (positive:0.357612)), deterioration (0.462046 (negative:-0.406042)), business (0.459816 (negative:-0.761290)), information (0.457759 (negative:-0.704666)), fictions (0.456649 (positive:0.383188)), emotion (0.454634 (positive:0.383188)), Tuesday (0.452377 (negative:-0.599616)), look (0.452179 (positive:0.440327))

Borodino:City (0.904263 (negative:-0.370223)), Rand Corporation:Company (0.674706 (neutral:0.000000)), Marshalsea Prison:Facility (0.651213 (negative:-0.272906))

Novel (0.974589): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Fiction (0.773761): dbpedia | freebase
Truth (0.712765): dbpedia | freebase
Invention (0.669499): dbpedia | freebase
RAND (0.663143): website | dbpedia | yago
Leo Tolstoy (0.637783): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc | yago
2008 singles (0.623718): dbpedia
War and Peace (0.619260): dbpedia | freebase
Reality (0.583228): dbpedia | freebase
Literature (0.579602): dbpedia | freebase
2004 singles (0.571002): dbpedia
Existence (0.563077): dbpedia | freebase
Debut albums (0.538526): dbpedia
2005 singles (0.535293): dbpedia
First French Empire (0.525532): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Battle of Borodino (0.520828): geo | dbpedia | freebase | yago
Marshalsea (0.519094): geo | dbpedia | freebase | yago

 The Left Hand of Darkness
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Guin, Ursula K. Le (1969), The Left Hand of Darkness, Retrieved on 2017-06-05
Folksonomies: science fiction