Real life flows without pause, lacks order, is chaotic, each story merging with all stories and hence never having a beginning or ending. Life in a work of fiction is a simulation in which that dizzying disorder achieves order, organization, cause and effect, beginning and end. The scope of a novel isn’t determined merely by the language in which it’s written but also by its temporal scheme, the manner in which existence transpires within it – its pauses and accelerations and the chronological perspective employed by the narrator to describe that narrated time.
Though there is a distance between words and events, there is always an abyss between real time and fictional time. … Novels have a beginning and an end and, even in the loosest and most disjointed ones, life takes on a discernible meaning, for we are presented with a perspective never provided by the real life in which we’re immersed. This order is an invention, an addition of the novelist, that dissembler who appears to recreate life when, in fact, he is rectifying it. Fiction betrays life, sometimes subtly, sometimes brutally, encapsulating it in a weft of words that reduce it in scale and place it within the reader’s reach. Thus the reader can judge it, understand it and, above all, live it with an impunity not granted him in real life.
In fact, novels do lie – they can’t help doing so – but that’s only one part of the story. The other is that, through lying, they express a curious truth, which can only be expressed in a veiled and concealed fashion, masquerading as what it is not. This statement has the ring of gibberish. But actually it’s quite simple. Men are not content with their lot and nearly all – rich or poor, brilliant or mediocre, famous or obscure – would like to have a life different from the one they lead. To (cunningly) appease this appetite, fiction was born. It is written and read to provide human beings with lives they’re unresigned to not having. The germ of every novel contains an element of non-resignation and desire.