In the morning, still persisting in the dozing that the hair-raising shriek of the alarm could not change into sharp wakefulness, they would dutifully tell each other about the dreams they had had that night. Head to head, caressing each other, mingling hands and feet, they tried to put into words the world they had been living in during darkness. Traveler, a friend from Oliveira’s youth, was fascinated by Talita’s dreams, her mouth, tight or smiling according to the telling, the gestures and exclamations with which she would accentuate it, her ingenuous conjectures about the reason and meaning of her dreams. Then it would be his turn to tell about his, and sometimes in the middle of a telling his hands would begin to caress and they would go from dreams to love, fall asleep again, be late everywhere they were going.

Listening to Talita, her voice a little sticky from sleep, looking at her hair spread out on the pillow, Traveler was startled that everything could be like that. He stuck out a finger, touched Talita on the temple, the forehead. (“And then my sister became my Aunt Irene, but I’m not sure”), he would test the barrier so few inches away from his own head (“And I was a boy naked in a pile of straw and I was looking at the raging river as it rose, a gigantic wave …”). They had fallen asleep with their heads touching and there, in that physical immediacy, in that almost total coincidence of attitudes, positions, breathing, the same tick-tock, the same stimuli of street and city, the same magnetic radiations, the same brand of coffee, the same stellar conjunction, the same night for both of them, tightly embraced there, they had dreamed different dreams, they had lived unlike adventures, one had smiled while the other had fled frightened by herself one had taken an exam in algebra again while the other was coming to a city built of white stone.

Talita would put pleasure or doubt into the morning retelling, but Traveler would secretly insist on looking for correspondences. How was it possible that his daytime companion would inevitably turn off into that divorce, that inadmissible solitude of the dreamer? Sometimes his image would become part of Talita’s dreams, or the image of Talita would share the horror of one of Traveler’s nightmares. But they did not know it, it was necessary for one to tell the other on awakening: “Then you grabbed me by the hand and told me …” And Traveler discovered that while in Talita’s dream he had grabbed her hand and talked to her, in his own dream he had been in bed with Talita’s best friend or had been talking with the manager of Las Estrellas circus, or swimming in the Mar del Plata. The presence of his ghost in an alien dream had reduced him to the status of a tool, with no precedence whatsoever over manikins, unknown cities, railroad stations, stairways, all the paraphernalia of nighttime reproductions. Next to Talita, wrapping up her face and head with his lips and fingers, Traveler could feel the impassable barrier, the dizzy distance that not even love could leap. For a long time he waited for a miracle, that the dream Talita was about to tell him in the morning would also be the one he had dreamed. He waited for it, incited it, provoked it, calling upon all possible analogies, looking for similarities that would bring him to a recognition. Only once, without Talita’s assigning it the least importance, did they dream analogous dreams. Talita spoke about a hotel that she and her mother had gone to where everybody had to bring his own chair. Then Traveler remembered his dream: a hotel without bathrooms, which obliged everyone to take a towel and go through a railroad station to take a bath in some imprecise place. He told her: “We almost dreamed the same dream, we were in hotels without chairs and without bathrooms.” Talita was amused and laughed, it was already time to get up, they were shamefully lazy.

Traveler kept on hoping and waiting less and less. The dreams came back, each one on its own side. Their heads would fall asleep touching each other and in each one the curtain would rise on a different stage. Traveler thought ironically that they were like those two movie theaters side by side on the Calle Lavalle, and he lost his hopes completely. He lost his faith that what he wanted could happen, and he knew that without faith it would not happen. He knew that without faith nothing that should happen would happen, and with faith almost never either.

—Chapter 143 of Hopscotch by Julio Cortázar

For days and weeks on end one racks one’s brains to no avail, and, if asked, one could not say whether one goes on writing purely out of habit, or a craving for admiration, or because one knows not how to do anything other, or out of sheer wonderment, despair or outrage, any more than one can say whether writing renders one more perceptive or more insane.
W.G. Sebald, The Rings of Saturn
Secluded behind their inaccessible languages, the small European nations (their life, their history, their culture) are very ill known; people think, naturally enough, that this is the principal handicap to international recognition of their art. But it is the reverse: what handicaps their art is that everything and everyone (critics, historians, compatriots as well as foreigners) hooks the art onto the great national family portrait photo and will not let it get away.
Milan Kundera, Testaments Betrayed
Suspending moral judgement is not the immorality of the novel, it is the morality. The morality that stands against the ineradicable human habit of judging instantly, ceaselessly, and everyone; of judging before, and in the absence of, understanding. From the view of the novel’s wisdom, that fervid readiness to judge is the most detestable stupidity, the most pernicious evil. Not that the novelist utterly denies that moral judgement is legitimate, but that he refuses it a place in the novel. If you like, you can accuse Panurge of cowardice, accuse Emma Bovary, accuse Rastignac—that’s your business; the novelist has nothing to do with it.
Milan Kundera, Testaments Betrayed.
Those who are creating the modern composition authentically are naturally only of importance when they are dead because by that time the modern composition having become past is classified and the description of it is classical. That is the reason why the creator of the new composition in the arts is an outlaw until he is a classic, there is hardly a moment in between and it is really too bad very much too bad naturally for the creator but also very much too bad for the enjoyer, they all really would enjoy the created so much better just after it has been made than when it is already a classic…
Gertrude Stein, ‘Composition as Explanation
Two things about Perec’s work strike us when we consider it as a whole: its abundance and its dependence on exceptionally strict procedures. It is essential to realize that the strictness makes the abundance possible. Every writer who confronts a world without meaning and undertakes to transform it through language must answer the questions: Where do I begin? What right have I to speak at all? Perec’s circumstances gave these questions special urgency. He was an orphan, and a Jew for whom Jewishness meant not a community of language or tradition but “silence, absence, doubt, instability, anxiety… .” Being Jewish meant “owing one’s life entirely to chance and exile.” Faced with such deprivation, Perec was forced to invent a place to start from: what he chose was the autonomy of complex structures, later subsumed in the Oulipian notion of constrictive form. (It is worth pointing out that Perec’s early works are as formally exacting as his post-Oulipian ones; the procedures are only harder to describe.) The choice freed him from the agonizing doubt of self-expression. (How can you express yourself when history has confiscated your voice?) Constrictive forms speak for themselves: they bring their own justification with them; there is no limit to what they can say.
Harry Matthews, ‘Georges Perec’ in The Case of the Persevering Maltese: Collected Essays
The novel, which is a work of art, exists, not by its resemblances to life, which are forced and material, as a shoe must still consist of leather, but by its immeasurable difference from life, which is designed and significant, and is both the method and the meaning of the work.
Robert Louis Stevenson, ‘A Humble Remonstrance’