One of the books I’m reading is a book by Beongcheon Yu that focuses on Natsume Soseki’s academic and fictional works. Natsume was an early 20th century Japanese intellectual and his approach to Western literature was consciously from a Japanese outlook and more specifically based in his particular ideas about what principles govern literature. I thought that his take on Defoe’s fiction could be applied to Don Quixote.

At a point in his lecture “Eighteenth-Century English Literature” he addresses a not uncommon opinion that Defoe’s novels are way too long and asserts that the fault lies in the texts and not the readers. Yu summarises his point.

What…is the secret of making long stories appear short? It is what we call interest, composed of three things in fiction: character, incident, and scene. And the closer the second draws to the first, the more intense the degree of necessity; and the closer the second swings to the third, the more importance is given to chance. Most novels, being complex, contain all three in varying amounts. But all successful novels must achieve unity. And this unity of the three kinds of “interest” can be achieved through acceleration, development, and change. Out of this unity emerges the theme of a work.

My reaction to DQ fluctuates regularly, as my blog readers know. I present this question to the group to get a gauge of how y’all feel so far: is DQ working for you as a successful unit? Do you even agree with Natsume’s criticism, as conveyed by Beongcheon Yu?

Edit: Dorothy commented on my blog that really long, fairly repetitive books were a dime a dozen (my words) in 18th C Western literature which makes everything clearer now regarding Natsume’s particular choice of novelist for explicating his point.

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