15 July 2007

The New Novel

Why did I ever bring it up?

Exceptionally estimable, good, nice, dear people they all were but they all, unluckily, kept asking me about the new novel, and that was excruciating.

Whenever I met an estimable friend on the street, he said and asked: “How’s your new novel coming? Countless avid readers are rejoicing in advance and are already eager to see your new novel. You were nice enough to let on that you’re writing a new novel, were you not? I hope it’ll be out soon, the new novel.”

Unhappy me, deplorable wretched me!

Of course I had dropped all kinds of hints. It’s true. I had been unwise and imprudent enough to let on that a new big novel was flowing forth under my quill or nib.

And now it was me in the inky blackness. Lost!

Ghastly was my condition, monstrous my state.

I went out in public and I heard from this corner and that corner: “So when is your new powerful novel finally coming out?”

I was almost ready to keel over.

“If only it had never crossed my mind to let on that a new novel was budding and blossoming!” a voice full of despair cried out within me.

My vexation was as great as my shame. Only by overcoming a kind of horror did I still dare now and then to show my face in the houses whose conveniences and hospitalities had once enchanted me.

To my publisher, estimable from every point of view, I had become nothing less than the bull’s-eye in the cross-hairs of the highest-caliber worries. Whenever I sat in his office he looked at me steadily, sadly, and deeply crestfallen as though I were a horrible child. Anyone can easily understand how angry that made me.

To the most estimable person in the world I had become the object of melancholy meditations.

Kindly, despondently, in a soft, still, graveside voice as though talking about matters irredeemably hopeless, he asked:

“How’s your new high-caliber novel coming?”

“It’s making progress, slowly; it’s coming along,” I tonelessly answered.

Not even I believed what I was saying, and the most estimable of persons believed it just as little as I did. His smile was tired, flat, and full of resignation.

Those and suchlike smiles are smiled only by someone who wants to convey that he has decided to forego everything splendid in the world.

One time he said:

“If you aren’t bringing me your new successful novel then there’s little or no point in coming to see me at all. The sight of a novelist who, instead of actually delivering his new capacious novel, only ever promises to deliver it, pains me, and for this reason I would ask you to put off visiting my office until you are in a position to lay your new and good novel on my desk.”

I was shattered.

“Oh, if only I had never let on that a new, respectable novel was arising within me! Alas, that it ever decided to cross my mind to promise what I could not deliver and lay on the table! If only I would never again give anyone to understand that a novel as beautiful as it is exciting and long-winded were in the offing and presumably available in bookstores rather soon!”

This I cried out loud, this was my lament. I felt reduced to nothing.

How abundantly I had come to know the misery it is a novel writer’s lot to experience when he promises to deliver his new, astounding, and gripping novel more faithfully than he really and truly puts it on the table and delivers it, who lets on about it and holds out the prospect of it more than he writes it.

I could no longer show my face in public among the estimable people who are in the habit of asking a novelist about his new novel. But I soon brought this oppressive, lamentable condition to a sudden end by one day so to speak scramming and hitting the road.

Translated by Damion Searls


It’s the right thing to do.

Sign up now to start receiving the magazine that believes history isn't over just yet.

Subscribe now »

  • Damion Searls
    • On Eric Rohmer

      Someone is walking somewhere from someplace else—so begins an Eric Rohmer movie. Two secretaries in an office chat about nothing in particular; mail is sorted; a boat is at sea. More…