Patrick O'Brian Discussion Forum


Re^2: O'Brian on the power of novels

Jobbing Captain


On Tue Mar 28, Don Seltzer wrote
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>'Of course they are,' said Yorke. 'What else raises your blood, your spirits, your whole being, to the highest pitch, so that life is triumphant, or tragic, as the case may be, and so that every day is worth a year of common life? When you sit trembling for a letter? When the whole of life is filled with meaning, double-shotted? To be sure, when you actually come to what some have called the right true end, you may find the position ridiculous, and the pleasure momentary; but novels, upon the whole, are concerned with getting there. And for that matter, what else makes the world go round?'

I have always thought the passage that follows, from Stephen's mouth, is POB's truest revelation of how he thought about writing the Canon:

"Sure you are in the right of it.  Intermissa, Venus diu, rursus bella moves.  And yet perhaps war, full war, martial war, may wind even more emotions to the breaking point -- the social emotions of comradeship, extreme joint endeavor, even patriotism and sefless devotion may be involved; and glory rather than a humid bed may be the aim.  The stakes are perhaps higher still, since physical annihilation accompanies defeat. But how is this to be encompassed in a book?"


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