Publishers at daggers drawn with media distributors. Bookstores vanishing from our neighborhoods. Writers working harder than ever to get their books into the hands of readers, for less reward. All this makes it easy to feel pessimistic about the future of literature. There are even times when you’d be forgiven for feeling that great books are now a thing of the past.
But you’d be wrong, according to Nobel Laureate Patrick Modiano. In his acceptance speech for his award, the retiring but prolific French author had this to say about our challenging times and his conviction that we, “the writers of the future” will prevail:
“A writer of the 20th century may…feel imprisoned by his time, and reading the great 19th century novelists—Balzac, Dickens, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky — may bring on a certain nostalgia. In those days, time passed more slowly than today, and this slowness suited the work of the novelist because it allowed him to marshal his energy and his attention. Time has speeded up since then and moves forward in fits and starts—explaining the difference between the towering literary edifices of the past, with their cathedral-like architectures, and the disjointed and fragmented works of today.
From this point of view, my own generation is a transitional one, and I would be curious to know how the next generations, born with the Internet, mobile phones, emails and tweets, will express through literature this world in which everyone is permanently ‘connected’ and where ‘social networks’ are eating into that part of intimacy and secrecy that was still our own domain until quite recently, the secrecy that gave depth to individuals and could become a major theme in a novel. But I will remain optimistic about the future of literature and I am convinced that the writers of the future will safeguard the succession just as every generation has done since Homer …” Patrick Modiano
Read Patrick Modiano’s moving Nobel Lecture in its entirety.
Read a review of Modiano’s novel, The Search Warrant, from The New Statesman.
Read a review of Suspended Sentences from the Wall Street Journal.