In this fascinating book on both novel writing in general and the writing of his own novels in particular, Pamuk devotes his second chapter entirely to how fiction can be both real and imaginary. From the reader's point of view, Pamuk takes the idea of the naive to stand for what has been been perceived, in an autobiographical way. And so, says Pamuk, people sometimes ask him: "Mr Pamuk, did all this actually happen to you?" (p. 33). If there were such a thing as a wholly naive reader, this person would assume any novel is really an autobiography. If there were such a thing as wholly sentimental reader, this person would think that even an autobiography was wholly constructed. But really, says, Pamuk, the idea of the novel is to hold both these ideas in tension with each other. Talking about his recent novel The museum of innocence, he says:
I intended my novel to be perceived as a work of the imagination—yet I also wanted readers to assume that the main characters and the story were true … I have learned that the art of writing is to feel these contradictory desires deeply (p. 34).
At every detail, the writer thinks that the reader will think that this detail was experienced. And the reader thinks that the writer wrote with the thought that the reader will think it has been experienced. The writer, in turn, thinks that he wrote that detail thinking that the reader will have thought of this, too. This play of mirrors is valid for the writer’s imagination as well (p. 53).
The experienced novelist goes along knowing that the center will gradually emerge as he writes, and that the most challenging and rewarding aspect of his work will be the finding of this center (p. 157).
The power of a novel's center ultimately resides not in what it is, but in our search for it as readers. Reading a novel of fine balance and detail, we never discover a center in any definite sense—yet we never abandon the hope of finding it. Both the center and the meaning of the novel change from one reader to the next (p. 176).
Friedrich Schiller. (1795-1796). On naive and sentimental poetry. In D. Simpson (Ed.), The origins of modern critical thought: German aesthetic and literary criticism from Lessing to Hegel (pp. 148-173). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (current edition 1988).