Mais sobre realismo em ficção. Desta vez, James Wood fala sobre realismo na caracterização de personagens.
To argue that we can know Jean Brodie just as deeply as we can know George Eliot’s Dorothea Brooke in Middlemarch, to argue that lacunae are as deep as solidities, that absence in characterisation can be a form of knowing as profound as presence, that Spark’s and Saramago’s and Nabokov’s characters can move us as much as James’s and Eliot’s, is to concede nothing to Gass’s scepticism. Not all of these characters have the same amount of realised “depth”, but all of them are objects of perception, to use Gass’s words, and things that can be correctly said of persons can also be said of them. They are all “real”, but in different ways. That reality level differs from author to author, and our hunger for the particular depth or reality level of a character is tutored by each writer, and adapts to the internal conventions of each book. This is how we can read WG Sebald one day and Virginia Woolf or Philip Roth the next, and not demand that each resemble the other. It would be an obvious category error to accuse Sebald of not offering us “deep” or “rounded” characters. I think that novels tend to fail not when the characters are not vivid or “deep” enough, but when the novel in question has failed to teach us how to adapt to its conventions, has failed to manage a specific hunger for its own characters, its own reality level. In such cases, our appetite is quickly disappointed, and surges wildly in excess of what we are provided, and we tend to blame the author, unfairly, for not giving us enough – the characters, we complain, are not alive or round or free enough.