Graham Greene

“Writing a novel is a little like putting a message into a bottle and flinging it into the sea – unexpected friends or enemies retrieve it.”

“The main characters in a novel must necessarily have some kinship to the author, they come out of his body as a child comes from the womb, then the umbilical cord is cut, and they grow into independence. The more the author knows of his own character the more he can distance himself from his invented characters and the more room they have to grow in.”

“….dialogue in a novel as in a play should be a form of action, with the quickness of action.”

“….and the longer life goes on the more surely one finds that old memories will be painful, and hung around with associations, like the cobwebs in a room whose occupant left many years ago ‘under a cloud’.”

“If you let the reins loose the horse will find its way home. The shape was something which grew of itself inside the essay, during the revision – you didn’t have to think it out beforehand.”

“With a novel, which takes perhaps years to write, the author is not the same man at the end of the book as he was at the beginning. It is not only that his characters have developed – he has developed with them, and this nearly always gives a sense of roughness to the work…… He is encrusted with characters. ‘You couldn’t tell it was a man’s body because of all the lampreys which came up with it.’ A horrible image, but it is one which suits the novelist well.”

“Sometimes in Flaubert’s letters you can see him becoming Madame Bovary, developing in himself her destructive passion.”

Greene, who was never awarded the Nobel Prize, perceived novel writing to be thus: “I can see now that my travels, as much as the act of writing, were ways of escape, from the everyday routine, the sense of failure, the fear of the future.….. I wasn’t seeking sources (for my novels), I stumbled on them….”

Lessing and Greene may hold differing views on the craft, the former taking the detached but sometimes psychoanalytical role of a curious spectator looking out on life and the world and the latter trying to sense them through the inner emotional self disguised in different characters, the objective conclusion one can safely draw from their takes is that the art of novel writing is a lot harder than what it may appear to be. At least for me this is the reason I have not dared to take up the challenge despite a nagging voice in my head urging me to succumb to the temptation. The idea of escaping from it all and losing one’s conscious self in the story writing process is ever so appealing…..