- Paperback: 328 pages
- Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press (1 April 1976)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0801818303
- ISBN-13: 978-0801818301
- Product Dimensions: 2.2 x 13.5 x 21.5 cm
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 464,852 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
A major work of criticism, altogether original and full of the most remarkable and profound insights.(Comparative Literature)
The book argues that the novel as a form is historically preoccupied with one particular dilemma: That when young, each of us believes that the OTHERS have some passport to community that we ourselves lack. The path through life (to maturity or to death) takes place through imitation of, and competition with, those persons who seem to have achieved what we wish ourselves to achieve. As part of this, we often chase after objects whose possession promises to "transform" us into someone else. Think of Swann and high society, Don Quixote and knighthood. If we tilt at windmills-- or seek achievements we don't value once we have them-- it may be because we thought these symbols will yield not merely themselves but also what they symbolize: Don Quixote hopes to become a knight, Swann hopes to become an aristocrat.
When the transformation doesn't happen-- when, for example, Groucho Marx becomes a member of the country club and discovers he's still as uncouth as he always was -- the possession disappoints. The victim then either matures, or sets off on another treasure hunt.
There has never been a work of literary criticism so revealing of the human psyche as DECEIT, DESIRE AND THE NOVEL. Girard's book focuses on envy, but in the process reveals a path to becoming genuine. If nothing else, this book will send you back to Proust, Cervantes and Stendhal greedy for text.