On various occasions, especially in your essay on Flaubert, you’ve spoken about dispensing with the old accessories such as plot and characters. But are those old accessories so useless as that; are there no truths to be reached with them?
One reaches certain truths, but truths that are already known. At a level that’s already known. One can describe the Soviet reality in Tolstoy’s manner, but one will never manage to penetrate it further than Tolstoy did with the aristocratic society that he described. It will remain at the same level of the psyche as Anna Karenina or Prince Bolkonsky if you use the form that Tolstoy used. If you employ the form of Dostoyevsky, you will arrive at another level, which will always be Dostoyevsky’s level, whatever the society you describe. That’s my idea. If you want to penetrate further, you must abandon both of them and go look for something else. Form and content are the same thing. If you take a certain form, you attain a certain content with that form, not any other.
But even so, the form is something you’ve discovered each time.
Each time it has to find its form. It’s the sensation that impels the form.
- from the Paris Review interview with Nathalie Sarraute