“Modern writers might suggest that, once cleared of sentiment, the novel has the potential to be the ground of truth, of clinical analysis, a place in which we are no longer hoodwinked; a world without feeling. Except of course this is maintained on a contradiction: storytelling is the means to this world. Beckett’s comedy confirms that even the most constricted, stripped-down story is emotional. Even the most overtly heartless, realistic novel relies on a certain kind of sentiment. Swooning under the gaze of its gritty beloved, it refuses the possibility of error or unknowing. Contemporary fiction’s impatience with this paradox and its refusal to confront it in form and content actually constitutes the bulk of contemporary fiction, and might thereby trace the fate of humanism. Apparently free of heavenly abstraction, humankind still struggles to ground its story and still swims in a sea without shore, and so, to save itself, clings like Pincher Martin to one remaining outcrop, repressing its fate.

Can the novel let go?”