14/CHRONICLESnresolved before life resumes its even course. I am describing,nvery roughly, the feeling of artificiality which was withnme at the very beginning, when I was trying to write andnwondering what part of my experience could be made to fitnthe form—wondering, in fact, in the most insidious way,nhow I could adapt or falsify my experience to make it fit thengrand form.nLiterary forms are necessary: Experience has to bentransmitted in some agreed or readily comprehensible way.nBut certain forms, like fashions in dress, can at timesnbecome extreme. And then these forms, far from crystallizingnor sharpening experience, can falsify or be felt as anburden. The Trollope who is setting up a situation—thenTrollope who is a social observer, with an immense knowledgenboth of society and the world of work, a knowledge farngreater than that of Dickens—is enchanting. But I haventrouble with the Trollope who, having set up a situation,nsettles down to unwinding his narrative—the social ornphilosophical gist of which I might have received in hisnopening pages. I feel the same with Thackeray: I can feelnhow the need for narrative and plot sat on his shoulders likena burden.nOur ideas of literary pleasures and narratives have in factnchanged in the last 100 years or so. All the writing of thenpast century and the cinema and television have made usnquicker. And the 19th-century English writers who nowngive me the most “novelistic” pleasure—provide windowsninto human lives, encouraging reflection—are writers whonin their own time would not have been thought of asnnovelists at all.nI am thinking of writers like Richard Jefferies, whosenessays about farming people carry so much knowledge andnexperience that they often contain whole lives. Or WilliamnHazlitt. Or Charles Lamb, concrete and tough and melancholy,nnot the gentle, wishy-washy essayist of legend. OrnWilliam Cobbett, the journalist and pamphleteer, dashingnabout the countryside, and in his breakneck prose, andnthrough his wild prejudices, giving the clearest pictures ofnthe roads and the fields and the people and the inns and thenfood. All of these writers would have had their gifts dilutednor corrupted by the novel form as it existed in their time. Allnof them, novelistic as they are in the pleasures they offer,nfound their own forms.nEvery serious writer has to be original; he cannot bencontent to do or to offer a version of what has been donenbefore. And every serious writer as a result becomes awarenof this question of form; because he knows that howevernmuch he might have been educated and stimulated by thenwriters he has read or reads, the forms matched thenexperience of those writers and do not strictly suit his own.nThe late Philip Larkin—original and very grand, especiallynin his later work—thought that form and contentnwere indivisible. He worked slowly, he said. “You’re findingnout what to say as well as how to say it, and that takes time.”nIt sounds simple; but it states a difficult thing. Literature isnnot like music; it isn’t for the young; there are no prodigiesnin writing. The knowledge or experience a writer seeks tontransmit is social or sentimental; it takes time, it can takenmuch of a man’s life, to process that experience to understandnwhat he has been through; and it takes great care andntact, then, for the nature of the experience not to be lost.nnnnot to be diluted by the wrong forms. The other man’snforms served the other man’s thoughts.nI have always been concerned about this problem ofnform, and even of vocabulary, because I fairly soon got tonrealize that between the literature 1 knew and read, thenliterature that seeded my own ambition, between that andnmy background, there was a division, a dissonance. And itnwas quickly made clear to me that there was no questionnsimply of mimicking the forms.nIn one of his early books, James Joyce wrote of thendifficulty for him—or his hero—of the English language.n”That language in which we are speaking is his before it isnmine. How different are the words home, Christ, ale,nmaster, on his lips and mine! I cannot speak or write thesenwords without unrest of spirit. . . . My soul frets in thenshadow of his language.”nJames Joyce was an experimenter in pure form—formndivorced from content. And the James Joyce point aboutnlanguage is not the one I am making. I never felt thatnproblem with the English language—language as language.nThe point that worried me was one of vocabulary, ofnthe differing meanings or associations of words. Garden,nhouse, plantation, gardener, estate: These words mean onenthing in England and mean something quite different to thenman from Trinidad, an agricultural colony, a colony settiednfor the purpose of plantation agriculture. How, then, couldnI write honestly or fairly if the very words I used, withnprivate meanings for me, were yet for the reader outsidenshot through with the associations of the older literature? Infelt that truly to render what I saw, I had to define myself asna writer or narrator; I had to reinterpret things, I have triednto do this in different ways throughout my career. And afterntwo years’ work, I have just finished a book in which at last,nas I think, I have managed to integrate this business ofnreinterpreting with my narrative.nMy aim was truth, truth to a particular experience,ncontaining a definition of the writing self Yet I was aware atnthe end of that book that the creative process remained asnmysterious as ever.nThe French critic Sainte-Beuve thought that the personalndetails of a writer’s life made clear many things about thenwriter. This method of Sainte-Beuve’s was bitterly assailednby Proust in a strange book—a strange and original andnbeautiful form, part autobiography, part literary criticism,npart fiction—called Against Sainte-Beuve, where the criticismnof the critic and his method, releasing the writer’s lovenof letters, also releases the autobiographical and fictivenelements of the work.n”This method,” Proust writes—and he is talking aboutnthe method of Sainte-Beuve—“ignores what a very slightndegree of self-acquaintance teaches us, that a book is thenproduct of a different se/f from the self we manifest in ournhabits, in our social life, in our vices.” And a littie later on,nProust elucidates: “The implication [is] that there is somethingnmore superficial and empty in a writer’s authorship,nsomething deeper and more contemplative in his privatenlife. … In fact, it is the secretion of one’s innermost life,nwritten in solitude and for oneself alone, that one gives tonthe public. What one bestows on private life—in conversation,nhowever refined it may be—is the product of a quitensuperficial self, not of the innermost self which one cann