Redux: What You Usually Find in Novels



Every week, the editors of The Paris Review lift the paywall on a selection of interviews, stories, poems, and more from the magazine’s archive. You can have these unlocked pieces delivered straight to your inbox every Sunday by signing up for the Redux newsletter.

Illustration of E. M. Forster by William Pène du Bois.

This week, as always, we’re thinking about the novel. Read on for our very first Art of Fiction interview, with E. M. Forster; a previously unpublished Anton Chekhov short story called “What You Usually Find in Novels”; and Peg Boyers’s poem “Open Letter to Alberto Moravia,” which imagines a missive from Natalia Ginzburg to Moravia.

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E. M. Forster, The Art of Fiction No. 1
Issue no. 1 (Spring 1953)


While we are on the subject of the planning of novels, has a novel ever taken an unexpected direction?


Of course, that wonderful thing, a character running away with you—which happens to everyone—that’s happened to me, I’m afraid.


Photo: Kasharp (CC BY-SA 4.0 ( Via Wikimedia Commons.


What You Usually Find in Novels
By Anton Chekhov
Issue no. 152 (Fall 1999)

Accidental overhearing, as a source of great discoveries.

A huge number of interjections, and of attempts to use technical terms whenever possible.

Small hints about important circumstances. Very often, no conclusion.

Seven mortal sins at the beginning, and a wedding at the end.


Photo: Pietro Pensa Archive, via Wikimedia Commons.


Open Letter to Alberto Moravia
By Peg Boyers
Issue no. 151 (Summer 1999)

Dear Alberto,

It’s true: I am a coward. The other night,
at dinner, I neglected to tell you how much
I detest your latest novel. Had you asked me,
I would have found a way to say something not
exactly false, but less than true: You’ve done it again!
A tour de force! But your thoughts were already
elsewhere …


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