Tragedy is only a way of assembling human misfortune, of subsuming it, and thus of justifying it by putting it into the form of a necessity, of a kind of wisdom, or of a purification. To reject this regeneration and to seek the technical means of not succumbing perfidiously (nothing is more insidious than tragedy), is today a necessary undertaking.

Roland Barthes

It is now two years since, in an attempt to define the direction of a still hesitating research into the novel, I acknowledged as an established fact ‘the destitution of the old myths of profundity’. The very vivid and almost unanimous reactions of critics, the objections of many readers, apparently in good faith, and the reservations expressed by several sincere friends, showed me very clearly that I had been going too fast. Apart from a few people engaged in similar research—artistic, literary or philosophic—no one was willing to admit that such a statement did not necessarily entail the denial of man. Fidelity to the old myths, in fact, turned out to be somewhat tenacious.

That writers as different as François Mauriac and André Rousseaux, for instance, should join in denouncing the exclusive description of ‘surfaces’ as a gratuitous mutilation, the blind obsession of a young rebel, a kind of sterile despair leading to the destruction of art, was nevertheless only to be expected. More unexpected, more disturbing, was the position, in many ways identical, of certain materialists who judged what I had set out to do in terms of ‘values’ which barely differed from the traditional values of Christianity. It wasn’t that there was any question of their having any religious allegiance, though. But in both cases a principle was made of the indefensible solidarity between our minds and the world, art was brought back to its ‘natural’, reassuring, rôle as a mediator, and I was condemned in the name of the ‘human’.

And finally I was pretty naïve, so they said, to try and deny this profundity: the only interest of my books, the only way in which they became at all readable, lay in the extent—which extent was in any case controvertible—to which they were its unconscious expression.