– Harper Perennial 1998; 192 p.; ISBN 0-06-091544-7
Read from May 31st to June 21st 2016
With her “Living by Fiction”, Annie Dillard seems to contradict Emile Cioran’s belief that building on the ideas/ creations of others is a form of intellectual parasitism, such an outstanding proof is this book that criticism can be art, that it can use literature as an inspirational source to its own glory, just like art uses world to the same purpose. In fact these are the two main themes of the essay: criticism versus art and art versus the world, both suggested by the inspired title. The second one is also emphasized by a clever question asked in Introduction: “Does fiction illuminate the great world itself or only the mind of its human creator?”
The answer is gradually developed in the three parts by discussing the how, the what and why of the fiction-world relationship. Part One, “Some Contemporary Fiction”, compares what the author calls historical modernists (Kafka, Joyce, Faulkner, Gide, Woolf, etc.) with contemporary modernists (Borges, Nabokov, Beckett, Barth, Robe-Grillet, Calvino, Cortazar, etc.) to show that the techniques of the first are still employed by the latter, by looking over time, characters, point of view, fable or themes.