“Art must take reality by surprise.”

From the 1956 Paris Review interview (which is very short) with Françoise Sagan:


Then you think it is a form of cheating to take directly from reality?


Certainly. Art must take reality by surprise. It takes those moments which are for us merely a moment, plus a moment, plus another moment, and arbitrarily transforms them into a special series of moments held together by a major emotion. Art should not, it seems to me, pose the “real” as a preoccupation. Nothing is more unreal than certain so-called “realist” novels—they’re nightmares. It is possible to achieve in a novel a certain sensory truth—the true feeling of a character—that is all.

Of course the illusion of art is to make one believe that great literature is very close to life, but exactly the opposite is true. Life is amorphous, literature is formal.

Read the whole interview here

I am very much thinking about her use of the word “arbitrary” in this reply – it is curious to me and I’m not sure I would agree. But this idea that “art must take reality by surprise” is a beautiful idea, a true idea. She is just about 21 years old in this interview, by the way, and now I’m hunting about for a similar discussion/interview/essay from her when she’s older. It would be interesting to compare her thoughts on art and writing, etc, at the end of her life.


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Reader, writer, translator, nature-lover, happy expat and concerned world citizen.

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