Saturday, 16 December, 2017.

Faculty of Philology
University of Belgrade
Belgrade, FR Yugoslavia

May, 1998


But what do
actually do?
Jacques Derrida

Intro. 1

Cervantes says: "For I can tell thee, though composing it cost me some labor, I found none greater than the making of this Preface thou art now reading. Many times did I take up my pen to write it, and many did I lay it down again, not knowing what to write."[1] Two centuries later, in a letter to Mme Hanska, Balzac admits: "Those twenty-six pages [of the Preface] gave me more trouble than the whole work."[2] Cervantes complains about the preface in the Preface, Balzac groans about the headache caused by the Preface.

Although their tone and message are the same, these two statements differ in several ways. Firstly, their function: the former is a peritextual element, an inseparable part of the novel; the latter, however, represents the epitext which we therefore do not consider relevant for understanding the work referred to. From the literary theory point of view the two statements have no common traits. They differ in terms of the period of their origin too: separated by two centuries they seem incapable of being joined. However, it is precisely this temporal cut that functions as a transitional crossing between the two. Cervantes and Balzac are pided by the eighteenth century, which stirred up the phenomena of authorial prefaces.

Intro. 2

At the beginning of Don Quixote Cervantes says: "I was thinking of the Preface I had to make for the story of Don Quixote, which so troubled me that I had a mind not to make any at all, nor even publish the achievements of so noble a knight."[3] Is the preface really so important? Is Cervantes overreacting? Whatever it may be, the fact remains: prefaces were inaugurated as a literary convention at the beginning of the seventeenth century.

On the other hand, nineteenth-century authorial prefaces are being worn out, their function transformed; although a preface is not a convention anymore, it still "gives trouble".[4]

In between the Enlightenment and the eighteenth century literature abounds in peritextual elements: a formulaic style is still present, although the peritext now bears a somewhat more serious function, different from the one in Cervantes or the nineteenth century novel.


It should be noted that prefaces emerged long before Cervantes or Balzac. In the incipient lines of The Gospel according to Luke the writer steps forward and, addressing an "excellent Theophilus", gives reasons for undertaking such an assignment: "Since many have undertaken to set in order a narrative concerning those matters which have been fulfilled among us, even as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having traced the course of all things accurately from the first, to write to you in order, most excellent Theophilus, that you might know the certainty concerning the things in which you were instructed."[5] Only after the writer had thoroughly examined everything from the first did he decide to begin writing. (We will see that the eighteenth-century writers often resort to similar formulations.) Dedication to Theophilus is but a literary convention of the time, and one need not be too discerning a reader to comprehend that Luke is here addressing the readers, that is - listeners.

Revelation of John is perhaps a better example. Beside a sort of an archaic preface, the work contains an introduction, which marks a clear distinction between the two. There should not be any confusion: "I John, your brother and partner with you in oppression, kingdom, and perseverance in Christ Jesus, was on the isle that is called Patmos because of God's Word and the testimony of Jesus Christ."[6]

Ancient Greek and Roman literatures are also acquainted with prefaces. Homer's and Virgil's invoking of the Muse and a few lines following the invocation serve as an explanation and anticipation of the main theme (Achilles’ wrath, Odyssey's return home, founding of the Roman Empire). In his Histories, Herodotus first explains who the author is and the purpose of the work: "These are the researches of Herodotus of Halicarnassus, which he publishes, in the hope of thereby preserving from decay the remembrance of what men have done, and of preventing the great and wonderful actions of the Greeks and the Barbarians from losing their due meed of glory; and withal to put on record what were their grounds of feuds."[7] Thucydides uses a similar device: "For though the events of remote antiquity, and even those that more immediately preceded the war, could not from lapse of time be clearly ascertained, yet the evidences which an inquiry carried as far back as was practicable leads me to trust, all point to the conclusion that there was nothing on a great scale, either in war or in other matters."[8] At the opening lines of this semi-preface Thucydides speaks of himself in third person (convention), while in the above quoted lines he steps forward and addresses the readers directly, explaining his further narrative: events have been depicted in a trustworthy manner, for they had not taken place in "remote antiquity" and because he himself had been witnessing them.

Aristophanes's Frogs contain two forewords, a prose and a metric one, but they should by no means be included into prefaces, especially not the authorial ones. (Ideally, they may be taken as a peritextual introduction written by the publisher of the comedy.) The same goes for the prologues of Greek plays (such as the one in The Acharnians or in Euripides's Hipolitus), although Genette holds that the monologue of Xanthias at the head of The Wasps and numerous "theoretical-polemical" prologues of Plautus's and Terence's comedies must be considered "true theatrical paratexts", anticipating "one of the most artful forms of the modern preface: the actor's preface."[9]

The Ancient Greek romance, known as erotic novel, provides several examples of perhaps the earliest real, authorial preface. In the opening lines of Chaereas and Callirhoe Chariton introduces both himself and the subject of the story to the readers. Longus achieves the same result in a slightly different, and possibly more artistic manner: through a dynamic ecphrasis – "a certain painting, a history of love" – and with a help of the interpreter he "described all events in four volumes, as a legacy gift to Eros, the Nymphs and Panes, and to all people as a pleasant manuscript which will heal the ill, comfort the sad, evoke memories to the one who loved, and teach the one who has yet not loved. [...] May God give us strength to describe love soberly."[10] He said it all: what the writer was induced by (the work of art), to whom he dedicated the book (gods), for whom it was intended (people), what the benefit of it was (to heal, to comfort, to evoke memories, to teach), and finally, how it was described (soberly = trustworthily). Genette even stresses the author's desire to compete with the work of art, which served as inspiration. 

Apuleius's Golden Asse opens up with a genre identification after which the narrator addresses the reader providing a full account of the elements the unfolding story consists of, describing the style and effect it will take: "And verily this new alteration of speech doth correspond to the enterprised matter whereof I purpose to entreat, I will set forth unto you a pleasant Grecian jest. Whereunto gentle Reader if thou wilt give attendant eare, it will minister unto thee such delectable matter as thou shalt be contented withall."[11]

Medieval epics, which foster an in medias res conventional opening, avoid prefaces. However, if they do contain one, it is usually symbolically laconic. Invocation of the pagan Muse is out of question! 

The sixteenth century recognizes Boccaccio's preface to Deccameron, which gives reasons for writing and reading the book (help, consolation, useful advice and pleasure), and for whom the work is intended (charming ladies). True enough, the author's postface is more interesting for it contains a kind of defense against intrusive literary critique (the phenomena we will often run into in the eighteenth-century novels), the defense into which Boccaccio's "poetics" is also woven.

Dissipated sixteenth century gave birth to Gargantua and Pantagruel where Rabelais steps forward with a "dethronizing" dedication to the readers (which, in fact, stands for a magnificent parody worded in a highly elevated, quasi-erudite style), and one daring, impudent preface which bears no respect for the abundant literary tradition: "Most noble and illustrious drinkers, and you thrice precious pockified blades (for to you, and none else, do I dedicate my writings), [...] why do not you [believe] the same in these jovial new chronicles of mine?"[12] But it is through this jovial parody that a famous "there's-the-rub"-illumination is expressed: implicitly and through a friendly mockery Rabelais imprinted gratitude to the past literary tradition.

A short chorus's prologue in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliette introduces the audience to the theme of the play. The last three lines remind us of Terence's prologues: this tragedy is nothing but "the two hours's traffic of our stage; / the which if you with patient ears attend, / What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend."  

Inserted Preface

But what does the preface actually do? The question sounds so simplistic that – like the majority of simple things – it requires complex answers. I will begin with Genette's generalizations: "Its chief function [is] to ensure that the text is read properly. This phrase can be analyzed into two actions, the first of which enables – but does not in any way guarantee – the second (in other words, the first action is a necessary but not sufficient condition of the second). These two actions are to get the book read and to get the book read properly."[13]

In ancient myth, seeing a reflection of
his own face on the surface of the water,
Narcissus fell in love with himself. In the
mirror of the novel, there are reflections
of the worlds presented, but of the novel
itself too.
                                     Kresimir Nemec

The novel has encountered various transformations at its various levels. If we are to show one of these developmental dimensions as a graphic representation it would, to my belief, very much resemble a diagram, highest and lowest points of which – with no intention of evaluation – would correspond at the level of author's relation to the reader. In brief, author's communication with the audience, "contact" materialized through interruptions, comments, remarks, prefaces, postfaces or dedications, has been varying in its dynamics and frequency.[14] For, "the novel is essentially a dualistic genre: most explicitly it shows tensions at the levels of arts-life, fiction-reality, story-discourse, mimesis-semiosis."[15] By this dialectical play, combined with a tendency towards self-consciousness (which marks one of its most differential features), the novel has defined itself as "the narcissist among literary genres". This is why the use of the term "self-referentiality" might be most suitable here. However, whether because of its polysemy or its potstmodernist tone, it seems to me that it would be safer to avoid such a slippery field. Therefore, I will here be using a dramatic, theatre term interwoven in the theory of Old Attic and Roman comedy: breaking of the illusion.. This phrase effectively indicates the spot in the text where writer/narrator/implicit author "steps out" of his work, approaches the audience and, as in Aristophanes's parabases or Terence's prologues, addresses the audience directly, drawing attention from the story onto the matter in question.

Now that I have clarified the term being used, let me to revert to the opening of the previous paragraph. Looking back to the inception of the Novel, it should be underlined that this breaking of illusion keeps appearing and disappearing at almost rhythmic intervals. However, what I am interested in here is neither Longus, nor Rabelais; let us leave them aside and focus on the inception of "the modern novel".

Cervantes's Don Quixote belongs to the type Stanzel defines as "actorial novel" for its essential characteristic "lays within the fact that the actorial narrator, as a mediator in the story, stands between the fictitious world of the novel on one side, and the author's and reader's reality on the other."[16] Such a narrator is often recognized through interruptions, remarks, explanations and involvements which do not precisely contribute to the development of the plot, but exist to "establish an intimate relationship between reader and narrator. It is, in its own way, an assumption that the reader surrenders to the narrator's invisible lead."[17] But beside this type of narrator, Don Quixote includes a preface[18] as well: a peritextual element, which preceeds the story about the knight of la Mancha. Certain autobiographical allusions imply that the preface was most probably written by Cervantes. It is because this "textual fragment" (which I have completely unjustly extracted from the main story) bears no direct link to the tale about the noble knight, I dare claim that this example of author's preface should be regarded as an embodied fracture of illusion. "The whole fiction stands as words on a sheet of paper, words that are in fact real; but this very fiction exists in consciousness too, like the worlds created by these words. The symbolism of relationships in the text – which at the same time represents reality and fiction, process and product, presentation and self-presentation – is best expressed by the characters of Don Quixote and Sancho Pansa. The former should be understood as the father of metafiction on account of his obsession with himself, imagination, literature, the book; the latter is a representative of mimetic principle in consequence of the obsession with reality, empiricism and faith in oral culture."[19]

Princess de Claive was written in the second half of the seventeenth century. Textual or authorial self-consciousness, "self-referentiality" could not be traced in this novel. French critics of the time, du Plaisir among them, pledge for "conciseness and narration of objective type".

Leaving the eighteenth century aside for the moment, let us move to the nineteenth where prefaces become much more jagged. However, according to Vellec-Warren vision, the nineteenth-century literary presentation (which necessarily entails self-referentiality, narrative perspective and breaking of illusion) has been split in two: romantic-ironic and objective, dramatic manner. The former "deliberately exaggerates the role of the narrator, rejoicing in violation of every kind of reader's illusion that one is faced with "life", life and not "art"; it highlights that the book is written literature." The former firmly holds on to a "directed point of view", advocating untouched, compact illusion. So, on one side there are authors following Sterne's narrative device of a constant breaking of novel's illusion (Gogol), while on the other there are novelists who avoid going beyond the text, remaining faithful to the uninterrupted story-telling, passionless and disinterested narration (Flaubert).

Perhaps Stanzle is then right when wondering about the role of those parts of the novel, which do not narrate the tale and do not contribute to the actual development of the plot. Are they legitimate elements of the novel, or do they in fact violate continuous narration and thereby the reader's illusion as well? The answer is to some extent embedded in the peritext of the eighteenth-century novels. In the epoch when nothing is self-evident and self-comprehensible anymore, novel – the only literary genre that had resisted a long enduring dominion of normative poetics and strict regulations of Classicism – became the most popular reading selection. However, the novel's courageous disregard for the official critique had not passed unnoticed. As a result of its chameleonic dilute structure and poetic undifinability[20]; contemptuous attitude towards the stereotype and the "general" [21]; inclination towards the realistic and its betrayal of old-fashioned romances; suspicious truthfulness and lack of moral lesson – the novel was regarded as illegitimate and powerless to compete with historiography and other already acknowledged literary forms. A call for truthfulness seemed to have intended to cripple unrestrained fiction, reducing it to a second-hand article of a humble artistic value. But the very austerity of contemporary poetics has become an even stronger stimulus for a further development of the novel. Artistic value is even more strengthened if the position of a literary genre is hard to define, and if with every new work it must be submitted to the process of redefinition. One should recall a brilliant idea of Yuriy Tinyanov about the evolution of literature: "Each kind of mutilation, each mistake, each flaw of the normative poetics is in fact a potentially new constructive principle."[22] It is perhaps on account of this insupportable position – precisely in the century when it becomes the most popular – that the novel was compelled to go through several formal phases. Two brand-new or slightly changed old novel-forms had surfaced in the old literary atmosphere, confronted with new demands and tendencies: memoirs[23] and epistolary novel [24]. Gradually those two forms were de-formed and gave birth to a peculiar hybrid mid-form: epistle-memoirs[25].

It is thus obvious that the Novel has revealed itself in several phases in a very short period of time: only the first half of the eighteenth century. How could Cervantes's genuine self-conscious parody of Middle Ages chivalry novels have passed almost completely unnoticed, while only hundred years later this very same literary genre was to be taken on such a deep evolutionary journey which would imprint its trace in the novel of two following centuries? The explanation should be sought in imperatives of the epoch, not only the literary-formal ones, but also in the philosophical, that is to say – intellectual as a whole. The time of enlightenment and master minds of Voltaire, Diderot and Rousseau, the time when ratio emerges as a demand and when seductive stories of miracles corrode, when mysteries and inconsistencies are being subjected to mockery – the eighteenth century novel, an easy prey to manipulation, refuses to tolerate "pure fiction". A quest for a grain of truth would eventually result in breaking of suspicious illusions. On the other (literary) hand, the answer lies in orthodoxy and restraints of the eighteenth-century critique, still reverberating with authoritarian voices of Classicist rules: a demand for truthfulness which was to bridge a gap between once popular historiography[26] and now flourishing – but officially denied – "mere fiction". The novel was to provide a clutch of realism as a support for fiction.[27] Author would now write a book, and hiding behind character(s) or some third person, would not risk the chance to have his work rejected as a "lie".

.... This means that the author's
intention is to let the reader know that a
fable, a story is not just a skeletal
construction or a pure fabrication, but
that it is based on certain devilish facts,
some testimonials, some documents.
                                     Danilo Kis

(Everything seems to be clear up to now.) Still, what is really this mysterious truthfulness about: truth?, realistic presentation?, pasted reality? Plato had been wandering through this labyrinth in his Republic:

- And tales are of two species, the one true and the other false?
- Yes.
- Don't you understand that we begin by telling children fables, and the fable is, taken as a whole, false, but there is truth in it also? [...] We must begin, then, it seems, by a censorship over our storymakers, and what they do well we must pass and what not, reject. [...] Hesiod and Homer and the other poets, methinks, composed false stories which they told and still tell to mankind. [...] No poet then, my good friend, must be allowed to tell us that

The gods, in the likeness of strangers,
many disguises assume as they visit the
cities of mortals.

From every point of view the pine and the pinity are free from falsehood. When anyone says that sort of thing about the gods, we shall be wroth with him, we will refuse him a chorus.[28]

So this is how Plato would solve the problem of "lies" in literature. Fortunately, his student and critical successor was to have a better understanding of the problem. In the ninth chapter of his Poetics Aristotle poses a more precise problem of "truthful" status of poetry:

A poet's object is not to tell what actually happened but what could and would happen either probably or inevitably. The difference between a historian and a poet is not that one writes in prose and the other in verse - indeed the writings of Herodotus could be put into verse and yet would still be a kind of history, whether written in meter or not. The real difference is this, that one tells what happened and the other what might happen. For this reason poetry is something more scientific and serious than history, because poetry tends to give general truths while history gives particular facts.[29]

This polemics had been extended even further, and was soon walking hand in hand with arguments over literary genre development.[30] Over the course of time the problem of "trustworthiness" had grown into the problem of "truthfulness". In his argument from 1683 du Plaisir pleads for the novel which would "break up with clichés of opulent baroque novel, that is - with baroque adaptation of antique novel of Heliodor type. Du Plaisir advocates for the novel without narrator's comments and digressions, a narrative about events taking place 'here and now', presenting different corners of human psyche in a concentrated plot. [...] Should it wish to impress by its profoundness and power, and not its opulence and large number of characters involved, [the novel] ought to become a chamber literary form, based on the principle of particular literary reduction, common to Racine's tragedies. But what is even more significant, it must stick to the persuasive principle which would be achieved by truthfulness"[31] - vraisemblance is the author's term, borrowed from the Classicist poetics of drama. It seems that these rules preconditioned not only the form, style, place of action, choice of characters and focalization, but also an emphasized role of a peritext - first and foremost, the role of prefaces.

The most important immanent aspect of a preface is its author/writer/sender, that is - an answer to the question: Who wrote the preface? "Determining the sender of a preface is a tricky matter, first because there are numerous types of preface-writers (real or otherwise), and second, because some of the situations thus created are complex – indeed, ambiguous or indeterminate."[32] Actually, one would always begin with a true but somewhat simplified assumption that a preface has been written either by the author of the novel, or another person not directly involved with the text (a critic). But, such a presupposition is so obvious, that it need not be mentioned in the first place! However, in order to fully absorb a literary work, especially an eighteenth-century novel, one would need to step out of our "fiction-less" sphere of reality[33], and walk into the fictitious world of the novel. Only when the problem of authorial prefaces (those which were most certainly written by a (real) writer of the given novel, and not its (real) critic, editor or publisher) is observed in this reciprocal manner, could we place the above-posed question in a completely altered perspective. We would be dealing only with the alleged writer of a preface, that is - the one whose name was signed (by the (real) author) below the text of a preface. This may be:

1. the author (real or alleged) - authorial or autographic preface[34]
2. one of the characters in the novel - actorial preface
3. a totally different (third) person - allographic preface

All the three of whom – author, character, third person – may be either fictitious or real. According to this classification, prefaces may be:

a)   authentic - written by a real person
b)   fictive - written by an imaginary person
c)   apocryphal - written by a person mistakenly claimed to be real

Hybridization of these two categories gives birth to nine types of prefaces[35].





a) authentic

Henry Fielding
Tom Jones

biographies or diaries

Borivoje Nedić
Moll Flanders

b) fictive

"Writer of Memoirs"
Manon Lescaut

Giles Blas
Giles Blas

Dangerous Liaisons

c) apocryphal

no example

no example

The Nun

So, prefaces are obviously quite perse. Their difference is measured not only by the type they belong to, but also by the "extent of persuasion" to which they are capable of convincing the readers in truthfulness of the story. At the opening of Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, a publisher in disguise, does it in a rather basic manner: directly and without ambiguities. In this fictive-allographic preface the writer tries to convince the reader of the moral value, seriousness and truthfulness of the novel.

The peritext of Moll Flanders is much more complex. A subtitle reads: "Written from her own Memorandums". Apart from a narrator and one fictive-allographic preface, Defoe eagerly tries to keep himself in hiding, drafting the "editor of the book" onto the front line:

The world is so taken up of late with novels and romances, that it will be hard for a private history to be taken for genuine where the names and other circumstances of the person are concealed. [...] The author is here supposed to be writing her own history, and in the very beginning of her account she gives the reasons why she thinks fit to conceal her true name, after which there is no occasion to say any more about that.[36]

Novels and romances are thus only entertaining literature, but we should by no means suspect the truthfulness of the story about Moll, for it is not a mere novel or a romance, but "her own history". And we will not, like in other novels or romances, find out the main character's name, because it is she who wants to conceal it. (Moll is only a pseudonym.) The preface had given the opportunity to create a convincingly life-like character: not only does she have her own wishes and demands, she also sets conditions under which her memoirs are to be published. (Attention should be paid to the above-quoted sentence: "The author is here supposed to be writing..." If she is to be supposed to have written her own history, then the whole construction of a preface as a peritextual element insisting on truthfulness - crumbles into pieces at the very beginning.)

It is true that the original of this story is put into new words, and the style of the famous lady we here speak of is a little altered; particularly she is made to tell her own tale in modester words that she told it at first, the copy which came first to hand having been written in language more like one still in Newgate than one grown penitent and humble, as she afterwards pretends to be. [...] The pen employed in finishing her story, and making it what you now see it to be, has had no little difficulty to put it into a dress fit to be seen, and to make it speak language fit to be read.

The original story, the copy, which came first to hand, the altered style, "modester" words? So the famous lady had told her story in a slightly different manner? Defoe leads us to the conclusion that yet another person had been involved in polishing the story - some editor who had altered the original preparing it for publication. In a much subtler way than in Robinson, the reader is drawn into a fictive discourse of the text, led by numerous facts. (Formal style of information is powerful enough to deceive the receiver. Quantity is also part of the fraud.)

An author must be hard put to it wrap it up so clean as not to give room, especially for vicious readers, to turn it to his disadvantage.

What author do we encounter here? Is Mall not the narrator, and therefore, logically, the author of "her own Memorandums"?

And as the best use is made even of the worst story, the moral 'tis hoped will keep the reader serious, even where the story might incline him to be otherwise. [...] Upon this foundation this book is recommended to the reader as a work from every part of which something may be learned, and some just and religious inference is drawn, by which the reader will have something of instruction, if he pleases to make use of it.

The moral lesson, seriousness, instruction, religious interference - all these elements are involved in the Robinson Crusoe preface as well. But the Moll Flanders preface differs in many ways: not only in its length (although we should not underestimate its importance), but also in the content, tone and message. Editor of Robinson Crusoe sounds stereotypical; he is in fact a pure convention. The latter example editor is much livelier: he admits that the original text had been altered, which is Defoe's trick to imperceptibly pull us into the labyrinth of his fictitious world. Although throughout the whole preface the reader is fully aware of the fact that there has never been any original story, that nothing has been left out (because it would have had to be written first!), that the famous lady has never existed, that in the same manner there has never been any editor - despite all this, the reader would very much appreciate if only a short look at the "original story" could be taken with all its Newgate language.

The first real eighteenth-century novel preface could be found in Giles Blas. Apart from being one of the shortcuts in the developmental history of the Enlightenment picaresque novel, this work is believed to be particularly interesting for its two (contradictory) prefaces.

Since the first preface of this novel is entitled Writer's Statement, and the second - Giles Blas to the Reader, and since it is well known that a typical picaresque novel is always written in the first person - a character narrating about his own life - it seems rather unusual that Lesage decided to make a distinction between "the writer" and "the character". According to one simple (and quite superficial) definition of a picaresque novel, these two (or better say - three) narrative instances should be identical: writer (fictive) = character = narrator. Therefore, the key question is - Who wrote the Writer's Statement, authentic or fictive author? The former option defines the preface as the authentic-autographic, while the latter opens up a possibility to regard it as the fictive(-autographic)-actorial preface[37]. The difference is great, and Lesage remains silent all the same... Acquaintance with the nature of the eighteenth-century authorial prefaces induces us to go for the second option, which allows the fiction to remain "tighter"[38], and illusion of truthfulness successfully imprinted. However, when we take a closer look, these two prefaces are not thematically affiliated[39]: one is occupied with the way in which the work should be read, the other speaks about the benefit of the ensuing story. Secondly, the author of the Writer's Statement sounds distant and detached, while Giles Blas addresses the reader directly with words "my friend the reader". Thirdly, the former gives account of his narrative procedure ("I had not always truthfully depicted Spanish temperaments"), that is - of something truly existing in our fiction-less world; the latter tells a story-within-the-story, which is a metadiegetic narrative level, by rule very far away from the reader. And finally, the story itself reveals two voices: the first person narrating and the voice pronouncing the subtitles in the third person. The second voice is, in fact, identical with the voice of the Writer's Statement author. So, it could not be Giles then. But what "writer" are we talking about? Wayne Booth would probably suggest "the implicit author", which would sound tempting if it was not for another possibility: Lesage himself.

Whoever it is, we are faced with Lesage's impossible paradox, which says: I, Giles Blas, am writing this history but I am not the writer of that history. Or vice versa: I, the writer of the history of Giles Blas, am writing about myself, but I am not Giles Blas.

Gulliver's Travels were published in 1726. Swift's unique satire, polysemic and indistinguishable form English reality of the time, with its allegoric, allusive, metaphoric background, most certainly represents one of the most provocative works of eighteenth century. But what is even more provocative from the structuralist standpoint is the fact that this work contains three prefaces: Advertisement, A Letter from Capt. Gulliver to his Cousin Sympson, and The Publisher to the Reader.. However, it seems that only the last one could be regarded as a true preface. The other two, as their titles claim, are separate peritextual elements, but only formally. As in the two previous cases, the reader is here faced with concentric circles of fictitious reality inserted into authentic reality. From a fictitious reality perspective, Advertisement should be viewed as editor's announcement, and his praise of this very edition which is better than any other because it is closest to the original possessed by "a very worthy gentleman in London, and most intimate friend of the author's".[40] In fictitious reality, Advertisement would be taken for an authentic-allographic peritext, while in authentic reality it would be transfigured into a fictive-allographic preface.. Note the reversing interchange on the "fiction-reality" scale. On the level of fictitious reality Gulliver's Letter represents a private epitext, that is - a private correspondence between Gulliver and Richard Sympson, while in authentic reality this letter functions as a fictive-actorial/allographic preface.

One would really think that Advertisement and A Letter from Capt. Gulliver to his Cousin Sympson should not be qualified as prefaces simply because Swift had never qualified them as such. Wrong! What author chooses to qualify as a preface bears no structural importance. Besides, Swift was not so shallow as to leave us deal with insignificant dilemmas: the text referred to as Mr. Sympson's Letter to Capt. Gulliver within the editor's Advertisement was elsewhere entitled The Publisher to the Reader and signed (by) "Richard Sympson". Thus the situation created by these confusions is far more complex: Advertisement designates a preface to Gulliver's Letter, while both these texts exemplify preface(s) to the real preface - The Publisher to the Reader; without them we would not be able to understand Sympson's excuses and explanations.

As in Moll Flanders, some parts of the original manuscript were left out, and some, on the other hand, were interpolated. But the reader's reaction to these two cases is wholly different, because Swift is obviously much more complex: after all those warnings and explanation the reader is in even greater doubt to be able to decipher the ensuing text. "Original manuscript", "interpolations", "copies of the original", ("The volume would have been at least twice as large, if I had not made bold to strike out innumerable passages relating to...") - what's the use of this labyrinth? Obviously, in the web of "lies" and "truths" Swift had built up a dizzy illusion of reality. The three texts preceding Gulliver's narrative could not survive without one another. But at the same time they do not at all stand as an immanent part of the main story: they are here as decoration, literary ornaments.

Manon Lescaut came out in 1731 as the seventh volume of voluminous Memoirs of a Man of Quality who had Withdrawn from the World. It has often been argued that the last sequence has nothing to do with six previous volumes. But it is not quite so. The preface to Manon Lescaut, entitled A Note by the Author of the "Memoirs of the Man of Quality", says: "Although I might have included in my Memoirs the adventures of chevalier Des Grieux, it seemed to me that there being no direct connection between them, the reader would find greater satisfaction in seeing them separately."[41] There's the rub! In one single sentence, in the incipient sentence of the novel, Prevost had inserted an intertextual link, a connection between two works having nothing in common on the level of plot. Marquise de Renoncourt (The Man of Quality, mentioned above in the title) who had been narrating about his own life in the previous six volumes, has now become a narrator in the perplexed plot, narrating about the life of someone else. Thus several concentric circles of narrative instances have been established, where Des Grieux's recollections of his passionate adventures stand on the third, metadiegetic level. Not only did the preface to Manon Lescaut lace all seven volumes of Prevost's opulent novel, but it also introduced the reader to the narrator's voice.

The preface stretches even beyond the textual borders initially set by Prevost and thus, encroaching upon the main story[42], becomes the main story itself. The First Part of Manon Lescaut opens up with a kind of introduction, through which the voice heard in the preface acquaints the reader with the circumstances in which he had met a young chevalier. In the midst of Des Grieux's story, at the end of the First Part of the novel, this very same voice is heard again, reminding the reader that the young man had been talking "for more than an hour", the reason why they both should take a break and have supper. By this interruption Prevost has artificially created an impression of truthful description of events. However, the framework of the story remains damaged: the voice, which opens the work and is heard again in the middle of it - does not appear at the end.

Before Des Grieux's story, that is - at the end of "introduction" (which may be designated as the Second Preface), the narrator says:

I should here inform the reader that I wrote down the story almost immediately after hearing it; and he may, therefore, be assured of the correctness and fidelity of the narrative.[43]

"Precise", "trustworthy" - adjectives in which the formulaic style of prefaces is often dressed up; warnings, facts, addressing the reader - this too is peritextual ornament. In fact, incipient passages of the main story should be treated as a preface. This problematic (anti-)opening includes even more elements of a "typical" preface than the Manon Lescaut preface itself.

In the case of Manon Lescaut it is not difficult to find the writer/sender of the preface. But, as with Lesage, it is difficult to define its type. Since the writer of a preface is both narrator and character in the novel, the situation is the same as with Giles Blas:

author of the
   Preface  narrator on the
 first diegetic
level = fictive author
of the memoirs = one of the
in the novel

This, in fact, means that the preface is either fictive-authographic or fictive-actorial. As in the case of Giles Blas this type is referred to as a hybrid preface, defining it as fictive(-autographic)-actorial type.

A condition of continuous dynamics
causes evolution, because every
dynamic system becomes necessarily
automatized and dialectically
distinguishes itself as the opposite
constructive principle.
                             Yuriy Tinyanov

These four examples have been chosen to show that prefaces had given hard time to the critics at the very beginning of their "modern history". Nevertheless, it should be mentioned that the given examples represent more complex cases. Not all prefaces are so disturbingly unbalanced. On the contrary, in the first half of the eighteenth century most prefaces seem quite simple (resembling the one in Robinson Crusoe) and, due to their tiresome formulaic style, almost uninteresting when compared to Gulliver or Manon Lescaut. Prefaces would soon become automatized, transformed into unavoidable refrain, dull and unproductive. Frequent exploitation of identical style and discourse, motifs and techniques turned them into necrophilic convention being repeated and, literally, displaced from one novel to another. Immersed into a never-changing pattern, their original function was worn out and petrified. No wonder: the first half of the eighteenth century in France gave birth to several hundreds of memoir and epistolary novels[44]. Megalomaniac literary production did not manage to escape the process of "ossification", closing and blockading itself into cliché. A search for a new way of artistic expression always reflects itself in mutation within the form or modification of the form alone.

To make a clear picture of prefaces transformation in the second half of eighteenth century, I will borrow the Russian Formalists idea of automatization of literature and defamiliarization (остранение) which fits this context quite appropriately.

When stating that prefaces were trans-formed, what I have in mind is not their form, but their function. Nevertheless, this should be taken rather conditionally. "If we agree that evolution is a shift in relations of the elements of a system, a shift of the function and formal elements, then evolution takes place as the "changing" of the system. These changes are not to be taken as an abrupt and complete renewal and substitution of formal elements but a new function of these formal elements."[45]

The same goes for prefaces. Although they are still wandering around the same old spheres which prove truthfulness and exact representation of events, a thread piding reality from fiction is now subtle and much finer. Although their function remains the same, it is no more a "believe-in-my-story" scheme0nor "truthfulness for truthfulness’ sake"; it is now the author's playing with the reader, a game on the verge of the truth and a lie. "The essence of a new construction could be found precisely in the new way of using old devices, as well as in their new constructive meaning."[46] Besides, as Tinyanov says, a device that has been laid bare would be automatized in certain epochs, and would thereafter naturally cause a dialectic request for an opposite device. Tinyanov thus insists on a "serene change", "inheritance". Medvedev, on the other hand, seeks for "struggle", a germinating riot: "Dialectic negation is born and raised in the bosom of the phenomenon which was being negated. A phenomenon itself necessarily prepares ground for its own negation, gives birth to it."[47] In short, if prefaces had undergone a certain change in the second half of the eighteenth century, Medvedev would claim to have been prepared even at the beginning of the evolution of prefaces[48].. According to Tinyanov's interpretation, this change was taking place evenly ending with quiet surrender when, indeed, literary conditions allowed it.

Elements of parody are the first "materialized moments" indicating that a literary form has become mature to be transformed - a mid-phase, a mid-space in which the change is being realized. But, parody is not a direct negation of the previous, it never forgets the form it deals with. "Parody is literary alive as much as its object is alive."[49] This is why parody of prefaces in the second half of the eighteenth century lives in those very prefaces, with the same elements they traditionally own. Only the perspective is changed. "A significant feature of parody is creation and de-creation, revealing and hiding of illusion."[50]

On the other hand, parody is materialization of literary self-consciousness; it emphasizes the artificial nature of the text; it is a metatextual offspring, an articulation of self-referentiality. A novel's need to abandon its status quo, to revive the ossified form was bound to emerge precisely in the form of parody - a severe but latent twisting of conventional inertia. For, parody is nothing but a shocking awakening, re-animation. And so, prefaces of the second half of the eighteenth century dance on this same "parodying" level.

Tempestuously or serenely, the prefaces had become mature for transformation in the second half of eighteenth century. However, one should be cautious when using the term maturity in this context: it was not their evaluative evolution, prefaces did not become more perfect (when compared to Robinson, for instance). They did become more complicated, but it would be sheer nonsense to claim that Rousseau's prefaces are better only because of their dizzying content.

If we take that prefaces initially insisted on an unambiguous acceptance of truth, we should now speak of a slightly altered peritextual formula: "This is a true story, but I would not expect you to believe in it since it might not be so true."

In Dangerous Liaisons this formula is meandering through two fictive-allographic peritextual elements: Publisher's Foreword and Editor's Preface. While the former denies truthfulness, the latter is silent about it. However, comparative reading shows that the two texts have mutual thematic and motif moments, as if complementing one another by their contrary discourses.

Publisher: We feel in duty bound to warn our readers that, despite the title and the editor’s comments in his preface, we cannot guarantee the authenticity of these letters. We even have strong reasons to suspect that this is a work of pure fiction.

Editor: Although our readers may perhaps find this work, or rather this collection of letters, still somewhat lengthy, it nevertheless represents a very small proportion of those included in the total correspondence from which they have been extracted.

The conflict of two contradicting statements coming from two different instances, creates an entangled situation where we, the readers, placed in an unfortunate position, are to solve the riddle. While the Publisher is eagerly trying to convince us that the collection is a "pure fiction", the Editor would not even bother mention such a possibility having no doubts whatsoever. There lies Laclos's craft: through explicit imposition of one idea, another is being permeated, its correctness thus being silently implied.

Publisher: It seems to us that although the author claims to be trying to achieve credibility, he has himself crassly vitiated his own claim by his choice of the period in which these events are set.

Editor: It was pointed to me that it was the letters themselves which it was intended to make public and not just a work based on them. When I replied that not one of the writers had failed to make crass mistakes which readers would be bound to criticize, I was told that any sensible person would naturally expect to find errors in a collection of letters written by ordinary people.

The Publisher gives arbitrary conclusions whereas the Editor not only met with the persons involved in the correspondence, but also spoke to them, negotiating and sharing opinions with them. Therefore, he knows them. Like Defoe in Moll Flanders, Laclos hereby creates convincingly dynamic characters of his work.

Publisher: In our view therefore, if the adventures here related have any basis in truth, they can only have occurred at other times and in other places. We strongly condemn the author.

Editor: I still think that few people are likely to enjoy this collection. Depraved men and women will consider it in their interest to discredit a work which may do them harm and since they are no fools, they may be astute enough to enlist the support of strict moralists alarmed by this fearless portrayal of immorality.

Comparative reading of these two fictive-allographic prefaces gives impression of an open argument between the Publisher and Editor. They are concerned with the same issues, but on different standpoints - not only in relation to the sphere of truthfulness, but also when it comes to stylistic and ethic categories. The Publisher's Foreword precedes the Editor's Preface, but only visually; in reality (a fictitious one, of course) the Publisher’s text is, in fact, a response to the Editor’s. The latter sounds as if only guessing the Publisher's objections, but is not really aware of them. Like in Gulliver's Travels, the first text turns out to be a (contradictory) preface to the second. The rest is left to us to decipher...

The great freedom given by the author to the reader is certainly one of the most striking features of prefaces in the second half of the eighteenth century. For the writers like Laclos, categories of "truthful", "precise", "trustworthy" are no longer a poetic imperative.

A more precise example of the reader's freedom is traced in Rousseau's New Eloise:

N: If you believe you are offering a useful book, fine; but by all means do not own it.
R: Own it, Monsieur? I am the Editor of this book, and I shall name myself as Editor.
N: You will name yourself? You?
R: Myself.
N: What! You will put your name on it?
R: Yes, Monsieur.
N: Your real name? Jean-Jacques Rousseau, in full?
R: Jean-Jacques Rousseau, in full. 
N: You wouldn't! What will people say?
R: Whatever they will. I put my name at the head of the collection, not to claim it as mine, but to answer for it.

No dilemma so far: Rousseau is the publisher[53], his collocutor agrees. However, the aim of the conversation is author of the book. "N" is resolute to discover the author, and his speculations are stretched across a wide field of options: from a Rousseau - the publisher of a real collection of letters, to a Rousseau - the author of a fictitious correspondence. Those speculations are ours too, for "the reader wants to know whether 'all that really did take place' in the manner in which it has been described, whether any of the actual events have been altered. Only a few readers are aware (but then, those are no longer 'readers' in the everyday sense of the word) that 'all that' actually doesn't exist, that 'all that' never did exist (at least, not in the way in which it has been presented in the text) - that it has never existed except within the text itself."[54] So, it turns out that the imagined conversation is, in fact, the conversation between Rousseau and us, the readers. And since both Rousseau and we are real people, the situation is even more complex: a fictive conversation between real persons?

N: My judgment depends on the answer you are going to give me. Is this correspondence real, or is it a fiction?
R: I don't see that it matters. [...] Although I only bear only the title of Editor here, I have myself had a hand in this book myself and I do not disguise it. Have I done the whole thing, and is the entire correspondence a fiction? Worldly people, what matters it to you? It is surely a fiction for you [...] Assume the worst case: my Julie...
N: Oh! if only she had existed!
R: What then?
N: But surely she is no more than a fiction.
R: Suppose it is.
N: In that case, I’ve never seen such a bad piece of work. These Letters are no Letters; this Novel is no Novel. [...] Certainly, if it is all just fiction, you have made a bad book: but say that these two women have existed; and I shall reread this Collection every year for the rest of my life.
R: Oh! what does it matter whether they ever existed? In vain would you seek them on the earth. They are no more.
N: They are no more? Then they once were?
R: This conclusion is conditional: if they once were, they are no more. [...] You want people always to be consistent; I doubt that is possible for man; but what is possible is for him always to be true: that is what I mean to try to be.
N: When I ask you whether you are the author of these Letters, why then do you elude my question?
R: For the very reason that I do not wish to tell a lie. [...] How dare you ask a question that is for you to decide?

This is Rousseau's dialogue play with readers: ambiguities, self-contentment, mysterious tone - nothing concrete said about truthfulness, nothing explicit about "authorship". The whole conversation leads to confusion and doubt. The only thing that seems clear is the fact that Rousseau is at least the writer (not the author!) of the preface. But is he?

N: Everyone will be as curious as I. If you publish this Work, then tell the public what you have told me. Do more, write down this conversation as the sole Preface. [...] One thing, though, I advise you to transpose our roles.
R: Will that too be in the character you praised me for earlier?
N: No, I was setting a trap. Leave things as they are. 

While at first we were not certain as to who wrote the work, now we are not even sure about the writer of the preface. It all seemed less difficult at the beginning: Rousseau is disguised as the publisher of the fictive/authentic collection of letters, which points to a fictive/authentic-allographic type. Now that the roles might have been reversed, "N" could be everything Rousseau was believed to have been at first. And not necessarily, because the trap was set. In any case, the second question - the question of authorship - posed as a riddle in both prefaces, is left open.

From a peritextual perspective, this work seems to be extraordinarily complex. Apart from two prefaces and a note to the Second Preface, this opulent epistolary novel embraces 147 authorial (foot)notes[55]! All this put together makes a colorful patchwork where readers are left to decipher who is who in the novel. The First Preface[56] consists of a prose summary of the Second Preface text, in which Rousseau is arguing with some "N" in a dialogue form. The two prefaces are pided by A Note to the Following [Second] Preface where Rousseau sets up his trap: the Second Preface is subtitled "An Imagined Conversation about Novels between the Editor and a Man of Letters". But in this very same imagined preface one of the collocutors is Jean-Jacques Rousseau, a real figure whose name – in the role of the author - is imprinted on the covers, beneath the title of the work...

In one of the footnoets of the Part Four, Letter X Rousseau says:

In my Letter to Monsieur d'Alembert on Spectacles I transcribed from this one the following passage, and a few others; but since at the time I was just preparing this edition, I thought I ought to wait until its publication to cite what I had taken from it.[57]

A certain "I" who knew d’Alembart and who kept correspondence about theatre with him, portrayed himself as the publisher of New Eloise. In the context of the novel, the correspondence between (real) Rousseau and (real) d’Alembert stands as an epitextual addition in real existance. The "I" appearing in the footnote could only be Rousseau. But, which Rousseau? Real or fictive? For, if it was a real one, then he could not be the publisher, since we know he is only the author. And if we are talking about the "fictive Rousseau" then he could not possibly be the author, since author is a real instance living in the real world. Let me temporarily bring in another Rousseau: Rousseau (real author of the novel) and "Rousseau" (fictive publisher and writer of the preface).

Rousseau's shrewdness might partially be dismantled through his fictive-allographic, that is authentic-autographic foot(notes). There are 147 of them, each belonging to one of the following groups[58]:

1. informative - "Rousseau's" explanations of vague places in the text or story
2. contemplative – "Rousseau's" thoughts inspired by a certain sentence of a certain letter
3. complementary - "Rousseau's" clarifications of the thoughts or sentences pronounced or written by the characters in the novel 
4. contrary - "Rousseau's" arguments with characters

These footnotes play a significant role in revealing great Rousseau's/"Rousseau's" role in the novel, not only as the real author, but also as a fictive publisher and someone taking part in the correspondence. His participation, taken from the fictitious side is twofold. Firstly: through these (foot)notes Rousseau is establishing fruitful communication with characters as if they are not unreal, or as if he himself is fictitious. Secondly: because of these (foot)notes "Rousseau" is placed in ambivalent position of the publisher and one of the characters in the novel.

The fact that all the characters, except Julie's lover, have their proper names should not be underestimated[59]. Julie's lover remains nameless until the third volume of the novel. And only then, in the Part Three, Letter XI is he given vague initials "S.P." The nameless will re-gain his identity in the Part Four, Letter V when Mme d'Orbe exclaims: "Welcome! A hundred times welcome, dear Saint-Preux; for I am pretending that you have kept this name, at least in our society."[60] The name (or more likely a pseudonym) is kept in our, readers' circles too, since the real name of Saint-Preux will not be revealed. Isn't it a bit suspicious: the young man and Julie are the main characters in the novel, the whole story is being woven around their passionate love. Why would the author not tell us his real name? And, what did Claire's husband do, minor part in the story mentioned only in passing, to deserve the luxury of being given a real name?

Through the mentioned footnotes "Rousseau" establishes an intimate relationship with his characters. This is particularly noticeable in the contrary and complementary type of the footnotes. When in the Part Two, Letter XI Julie says:

Ardent love, by inspiring in you all the sublime sentiments which are its offspring, has given you that elevation of thought and that justness of mind from which it is inseparable.

"Rousseau" comments:

Justness of mind inseparable from love? Simple Julie, it does not show here in yours.[61]

Or, when in the Part Three, Letter IV Madame d’Orbe writes:

Propriety forsook her yesterday to the point of saying in Julie’s presence, a little indiscreetly, perhaps, "Ah, if it rested only with me..."

"Rousseau" tenderly remarks:

Claire, in telling him this, are you less indiscreet? Is this the last time you will be so?[62]

This is how it is in the Part Four, Letter XVII:

I steered so much toward the middle of the lake that we soon found ourselves more than a league from shore.*
* How is that? Opposite Clarens, the lake is hardly two leagues wide.

Some footnotes sound much more personal than one would expect from a publisher. In the Part Four, Letter III Saint-Preux writes:

Are you not the same Claire, as good and compassionate as you are virtuous and prudent, who has deigned to love me since her most tender youth and who must love me much more still, now that I owe her everything?

"Rousseau" heckles:

Why does he owe so much, then, to her who occasioned the misfortunes of his life? Wretched questioner! He owes her the honor, the virtue, the tranquility of the one he loves: he owes her everything.[64]

This passage reveals two voices arguing over a personal matter. But these are not two different narrative instances. In the context of the whole novel, this footnote - like several other notes belonging mostly to the contemplative type - sounds as if coming from a single person questioning himself now about the matters which were of interest long time ago. The first voice - "Why does he owe her so much?" - sounds like a young lover, still embittered because of the lost love. On the other hand, the second voice - "He owes her everything!" - reverberates with echoes of self-conscious conclusions one is capable of only after a period of time had passed, and when traces of painful experiences have faded away. Such a remark could not have been made by any "Rousseau", or - to put it more precisely - it could have been so, but only if such "Rousseau" was more than the publisher.

Does the following example ring a bell?

It is of all the hours of my life the one which is most dear to me, and the only one which I should have wished to prolong eternally.*
*Too compliant woman, do you wish to know if you are loved? Examine your lover as he leaves your arms. Oh love!

It is not likely that a disinterested, professional publisher would be so eager and energetic in his comments. His comments are more than merely informative or referential footnotes. He argues with everyone, and every footnote gives way to a powerful personal seal, as if the person commenting lives - still or again - through the narrated events.

In the framework of the given examples, Part Two, Letter XIII should perhaps conjure a vague silhouette of conclusion: Saint-Preux hereby decides to "gather together all those [letters] you have written me. But the paper wears away imperceptibly, and before they are in pieces I intend to copy them all in a blank book which I have just chosen expressly for that purpose. It is rather thick but I think of the future. To my knowledge these will be the first love letters ever put to this use."[66]

A mysterious tone in the Preface, personal tone in the notes, collecting of letters, interruptions, protests, outbursts of emotions - all this put together leads to a somewhat radical conclusion that Saint-Preux and the publisher of the collection must be the same person. Saint-Preux published the letters documenting the correspondence after Julie's death.

"Rousseau" = publisher = Saint-Preux

The dilemma that confused us in the Preface, in which "Rousseau" was presented as publisher and editor of the book, emanates numerous concentric circles of fiction: fictive "Rousseau" publishes fictive correspondence between fictive characters. Such "Rousseau" is certainly fictitious! But where is the real Rousseau[67], the real friend of the real d'Alembert, writing real letters about theater? He too is present in footnotes where he is given the role of a fictive publisher. Is it possible to equate "Rousseau" with Rousseau? Is it possible to reconcile and equalize fiction and reality? Those are two separate worlds: communication between them is established only through us, the readers.

Rousseau has thus brought the novel into the world of the real: one would either think of Jan-Jacques Rousseau, d'Alembert, and us, the readers as mere writer's imagination; or he will accept the other way round - that Saint-Preux, Julie, the publisher's collocutor "N", the correspondence, we are real, that, in fact, the whole story of the lovers is a true story which really took place in a such-and-such year, in a such-and-such town between such-and-such people. All is real, except the story.

Contrary to the speculations brought about at the beginning of the passage about New Eloise, after a long journey through puzzling spheres of fiction and reality, we are faced with a paradoxical conclusion that this is an ordinary, but by no means typical authentic-autographic preface as a parasite upon the base of fictive-actorial-allographic type.

Lost is the man of the creative spirit who
reaches above the barriers that customs
and time have set for the works of art
and who neglects the protocols and their
forms! Many years would pass before he
gains what to him by right belongs.
                                      Denis Diderot

Diderot's Nun does not have a preface, at least not a typical one found in most of the encyclopedic definitions. A preface to this novel is at the end.

In 1760 Diderot finished his Nun, but it was not published until 1796. Grimm's Preface to Diderot's novel was published in 1770 in the Correspondance Littéraire journal. That makes it ten years before the work had even reached the public. This fact alone places the Nun into the sphere of mystification. Why would anyone write and publish a preface to the book which is not to come out in the two  following decades?

For a long period of time the famous Preface had not been attributed to Diderot, and until the 1950s the novel used to be published without it. Genetics researches have proved that Diderot, who was revising the original Grimm's version, wrote certain parts of the Preface[68] text.

The whole story of the Nun is quite simple: a misfortunate young woman, forced to live in a monastery, writes a long letter to Marquis de Croismare after escaping from the convent seeking his help and protection. A perfect framework for pathetic epistle-memoirs. But the problem emerges only after we find out that the same Marquis de Croismare was a real person and close friend of Diderot and Grimm's.

The central figure of the "Memoirs" is Suzanne Simonin, writing a sad history of her poor self. However, the end of Suzanne's thrilling story is not to be found in the "Memoirs", but precisely in the Preface, located at the end of the novel, thus gaining the status of an epilogue. Suzanne's life is sequenced in the Preface, although not in an undisturbed first-person narration, but in the epistolary form. Namely, the Preface opens up with a first-person prose passage (but it is no longer Suzanne's voice) with comments, and it closes with a passage the writer addresses to the readers, entitled A Question to the Writers; between these two passages there are several letters written by Suzanne, Marquise and a Madame Madin to each other. Of all correspondents, only Suzanne is fictitious: Madame Madin is a real person although her letters are fictitious - Diderot is writing them! (de Croismare is writing from Normandy.) Thus, of the two real persons one only exists (Madame Madin) and her participation does not go beyond this conclusion. Within the diegesis of the narrative Madame Madin is a real person, whereas within the diegesis of the correspondence she becomes fictitious[69].. As for Marquise, he is a tricky one. While reading Suzanne's "Memoirs" addressed to Marquise, one would claim that characters of both Suzanne and Marquise are fictive. But the perspective is altered in the Preface. Since de Croismare is a real friend of real Diderot’s and real Grimm's (it is a historically proven fact which we now know), and since his real letters were published in the Preface, it is quite logical that we would consider him as real. His crossing from fictive into the here-and-now reality makes Suzanne's status rather untenable. And if she is not just a character in the novel, if she may exists, then the whole story of hers turns out to be a true one[70]. "The novel has from the very start declared itself as fiction. And then in the end, through partial overlapping of elements of the fiction and non-fiction worlds, it created an impression that it stands for something greater than that, almost the life itself."[71] Through this lapping from one world into another, intermingling reality and fiction, inventions and real events, Diderot created a powerful impression of truthfulness although the Preface does not say a single word about the truthfulness of Suzanne's "Memoirs".

A Preface to the Work Written by Mr. Grimm taken from the Correspondance Littéraire, in 1760[72], opens with the following words:

The Nun of M. de la Harpe has reawakened a conscience which has been tranquil for ten years, by reminding me of horrible plot, of which I was the leading spirit in concert with M. Diderot and a few other bandits of the same stamp, who were our intimate friends.[73]

A certain "I" who is Diderot's friend and who was plotting conspiracy with him is emerging here. First person narrative along with the proper name given in the title leads to a not so profound conclusion that Mr. Grimm is the writer of the Preface. Being a party involved, he narrates about the origin of the fictive memoirs of fictive Suzanne Simonin. He is not the author of the memoirs, he is a witness, a "third person", a real person writing an autonomous text independent (at least in the visual representation) of Diderot's novel. Grimm's text thus represents authentic-allographic epitext. When the Preface was added to the novel, Grimm became the author of authentic-allographic peritext, informing the readers about the plot of deceiving Marquis de Croismare, a real deceit built by Diderot’s fiction through the "Memoirs". Their game is funny, original and at first sight - quite simple.

But when it was proven that Diderot himself had been working on this peritext, revising it and giving it its final shape, the Preface gained a status of fiction. And what a fiction! Grimm is no longer an authentic but fictive author. Grimm is, in fact, no longer an "author" at all. The author is Diderot who (deliberately) erroneously ascribes authorship of the Preface to Grimm. Thus, the Preface now belongs to that impossible type: apocryphal-allographic type.

Grimm is the narrator in the Preface.. As he himself admits, he is a "friend of Mr. Diderot's and charming Marquis de Croismare", a real persons. Like Diderot, de Croismare and Madame Madin, Grimm too is part of the fiction-less, real world, which is why his narrative stands on the first narrative level. He speaks "from aside". All other narrative instances of the Preface stand beneath Grimm, on the second narrative level. The correspondence between real de Croismare, fictitious Suzanne and semi-fictive Madame Madin, that is – the correspondence between real de Croismare and real Diderot was initially seen as authentic (which, in fact, it was). But when it was discovered that it was Diderot who had written parts of the Preface, a question emerged: which Diderot lives in this Preface, real or fictitious one? As in New Eloise, there are two Diderots here: Diderot - the author of the novel, and Mr. Diderot - a correspondent, introduced as "my friend Mr. Diderot".

The Preface contains an episode proven to have been written by Diderot.

One day when he was entirely absorbed in his work, one of our friends, D'Alainville, went to call on him and found him plunged in grief, with his face bathed in tears.

- What on earth is the matter? - said M. D’Alainville - What a state are you in!

- What is the matter - answered Diderot - I am miserable about a story I am writing...[74]

Only in the epilogue do we realize that this is a story within a story. The first-level narrator ("writer" of the Preface) depicts the protagonist of his story (a novel-like character of Diderot) as narrating his own, second-level narrative (the "Memoirs"). In other words, Diderot creates another "Diderot" - a fictive author of fictive "Memoirs". Thus a confusing line of fictions is drawn: Diderot gives the floor to "Grimm" the narrator of the Preface, whereas this same "Grimm" begins a narration about his "friend Mr. Diderot" who is getting sad about the story which is written by him, fictive Diderot! The Preface-Annex was allegedly written by real Grimm in order to present a real novel of real Diderot about a real case of a nun, the novel erected from the real correspondence intended to fool the real Marquise. Everything about the novel is real and depicted as authentic, except for the "Memoirs" indicated as the novel, or "the story I am writing".

The closing sentences of A Question to the Writers have helped Diderot skip two hundred years, stepping into the poetics of the twentieth century, reverberating with voices of confusing self-referentiality – so effectively once announced by Sterne – where the writer portrays himself in the act of creation of fiction, becoming thus the fiction himself. This reminds one of a brilliant Kis's metaphor[75]:

As a child, I used to watch magicians who would use their tricks to hold me, to hold their audience in an enchanted, supernatural world, and who would delight us with their hocus-pocus, their abracadabra, who would provide us with a certain metaphysical thrill which pervaded everything that appeared otherworldly, demonic, wondrous. How disappointing the end was, when that miracle worker, that man in touch with the powers of the dark, would turn his back to the audience and show us the other side of his skill, the simple tricks, the ball on the back of the hand, the retractable knife, the double-bottomed cage. Why did he - I would then say to myself - why did he do that to me, why did he disappoint me! I was far from being pleased that he had revealed his secrets to me! Later, at home, I would use a ball to try and reenact some of the masterpieces he had performed, to repeat those simple operations, and I understood - after long and strenuous practice – not only that I would never be able to do what he did, but that that other aspect of the magic show, that revelation, that alleged de-mystification, that too was part of his masterpiece.

A U T H O R 'S   P O S T F A C E

But what do
actually do?

Jacques Derrida

[1] Cervantes, Don Quixote, translated by John Ormsby, at:

[2] Balsac, a letter written on July 13, 1842, in: Gerard Genette, Paratexts, Thresholds of Interpretation, Cambridge University Press, 1997, p.230, translated by Jane E. Lewin

[3] Cervantes, Ibid.

[4] It seems to me that Balzac did not have reasons to overreact. The quoted sentence was taken from a private letter, and therefore was not intended to be addressed to the readers.

[5]The Gospel According to Luke, 1:4 at: World English Bible(WEB)

[6] Revelation of John, 1:9 at: World English Bible(WEB)

[7]The History of Herodotus translated by George Rawlinson, at:

[8] History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides translated by Richard Crawley, at:

[9] Genette, Ibid.

[10] Longus, Dafnid and Chloia; translation is mine.

[11] Lucius Apuleius, The Golden Asse, Adlington's translation, 1566 at:

[12] Francis Rabelais, Five Books of the Lives, Heroic Deeds and Sayings of Gargantua and his Son Pantagruel, translated by Sir Thomas Urquhart of Cromarty and Peter Antony Motteux

[13] Genette, Ibid., p. 197.

[14] Literary theory has not thoroughly examined this phenomenon. Moreover, there's no concrete, precise terminology to designate and define it.

[15] Kresimir Nemec, "Autoreferencijalnost i romaneskna samosvijest", in: Intertekstualnost & autoreferencijalnost (collection of essays), Zagreb, 1993, p. 117.

[16] Franz Stanzle, Tipicne forme romana, Knjizevna zajednica Novog Sada, 1987, p. 30

[17] Stanzle, Ibid., p. 38

[18] "The whole novel is built on counterpoint: illusion is opposed to reality, art opposed to nature, truth to lie, insanity to sanity. Ingeniousness of Cervantes's art lays in the craft thought which he showed that boundaries between the mentioned opposing pairs are rather shakable and conditional." (Intertekstualnost & autoreferencijalnost, p. 118)

[19]Ibid., p. 119

[20] "The poverty of the novel's formal conventions would seem to be the price it must pay for its realism." (Ian Watt, The Rise of the Novel, University of California Press, 1967, p. 13)

[21] This is not about old "particular-general" opposition spoken of in the ninth chapter of Aristotle's Poetics. Ian Watt's explanation would do: "The plots of classical and renaissance epics were based on past history of fable, and the merits of the author’s treatment were judged largely according to a view of literary decorum derived from the accepted models in the genre.. This literary traditionalism was first and most fully challenged by the novel, whose primary criterion was truth to inpidual experience." (Watt, p. 13; italic is mine)  It is thus about realism of inpidual experience and not the experience alone.

[22] Yuriy Tinyanov and Roman Jacobsen, Poetika ruskog formalizma, Beograd, 1982, p. 277.

[23] Memoirs were known before the eighteenth century, during the Classicism era, immersed into historic themes and narrating about the lives of famous historical figures. The writer of memoirs would introduce oneself as a real person, close to people of high rank (D'Artagaine, for instance), and withdrawing from the narrative scene would fill in the story-frame with important historical events and people. These are not memoirs in the typical eighteenth-century manner: the characters do not narrate about themselves. Character's life is only the background, an excuse for story-telling; the character is therefore a kind of witness and the autobiographic form is not fully exploited. This practice was altered at the opening of the eighteenth century: it seems that the reading public was no more interested in res publica or influential celebrities. Something less bombastic was sought, something closer to an ordinary, little man who would guide us through the society and historical epochs, revealing the background of events, strokes of faith, conflict of interests overshadowing important political decisions. Lesage, Marivaux and Prevost conceived realistic memoirs after 1725. This is the first person narration, both introspective and retrospective, that is chronological, contrary to precioze novels, which open up in medias res, emulating epics and complying with the rules established by Classicism. Realistic memoirs give impression of reality and truthfulness to a certain extent. Nevertheless, the mentioned reality could become a serious obstacle: in order to avoid self-contradiction and inconsistencies the narrator's memory must be excellent, which is hardly the case in real life. So the writers invented a set of tricks: "gaps" in recollection of events, incapability to complete or conclude the series of events in the narrated time. This leads us to a salient feature of memoir novels: difference between narrated (fictitious) time and narrative time (time of narration). Retrospective narration branches in two directions: through inserted anticipations, additional subsequent comments and conclusions the story-teller could be presented as omniscient narrator; or could keep certain moments in secret, and thus keeping the readers in suspense, create an impression of truthfulness. Famous memoir novels of the eighteenth century: Lesage's Giles Blas, Prevost's Manon Lescaut, Defoe's Moll Flanders and Robinson Crusoe.

[24] Epistolary novel, like memoir novel, was known in the period of Classicism. Letters of Eloise and Abelard written in twelfth century were translated and published in France five hundred years later. Their popularity among the reading public speaks in favor of the popularity of the genre in general. Here is one possible definition of epistolary novel: "a fragmentary narrative form which combines several (up to a hundred) separated narrative testimonies coming from one or several narrative instances, addressed to one or several narratees." (Milica Vinaver-Kovic, Narativni postupci u Didroovim romanima, Novi Sad, 1997, str. 25n) Flourishing of this novel form was firmly influenced by one of the most important demands of the eighteenth century – the demand for truthfulness. In the memoir novels two temporal platforms - the narrated time and narrative time - impaired the realism of the text. In the epistolary novels this problem could be easily overcome by bringing these two platforms together: the letter always gives account of the event immediately preceding the act of writing, "the narrator's 'I' is synchronized with the character's I, and the narration is objective in its correspondence to a personal experience." (Milica Vinaver-Kovic, Ibid. str. 38) Epistolary novels do not require anticipations or warnings, which is why they are much livelier, more dynamic, and real. The most significant epistolary novels of the eighteenth century are Laclos's Dangerous Liaisons and Rousseau's Julie or New Eloise.

[25] Epistle-memoir novel is, in fact, a hybrid form. It combines positive and avoids negative characteristics of memoir and epistolary novels. The narrator addresses his/her correspondent in the midst of the narrative about past events and experiences, digressing from the main point and linking the past and the present in a less stereotypical manner. Marivaux's Marianne's Life and Diderot's The Nun are the most prominent eighteenth-century novels of this type.

[26] "Historiography" hereby designates a novel telling a fictitious, invented story involving real, historically identified persons and events.

[27] As Zmegac points out, the term "romanesque" designated something unreal, emphasized and unusual. Such an attitude towards the novel is recognized in Marivaux's Marianne's Life when the narrator writes to her friend: "But you have been mislead, terribly mislead! You believed to have been reading a novel instead of a true history, which is why you have completely forgotten that I am telling you about my life." The "novel-life" opposition is constantly present in the novels of eighteenth century.

[28] Plato, Republic, 377a-383c, translated by Paul Shorey, at:

[29] Aristotle, Poetics, translated by William Hamilton Fyfe, at:

[30] Pay attention to Rabelais’s invented quotations allegedly taken from Plato, Aristotle, etc.

[31] Zmegac, p. 38

[32] Genette, p. 178

[33] That is - a sphere in which we see ourselves as sitting in an armchair, holding Fiedling's Tom Jones, and reading the Preface written by Borivoje Nedic, a translator of Fielding's novel into Serbian.

[34] This one should not be confused with author's preface, which designates all prefaces written by the real author of the work.

[35] The following table as well as the whole classification is Genette's. Examples are mine though, placed within the framework and context of eighteenth century novels. Genette, as he himself admits, gives rather vague examples of apocryphal prefaces, simply because the existing world literature is still not fully aware of them. But we will see that Genette is not completely right: as Milica Vinaver-Kovic points out, Diderot's Preface-Annex to the Nun belongs to apocryphal-allographic type. Well check that out later.

[36] Defoe, Fortunes & Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders at: (All further quotations are taken from this web site.)

[37] A similar possibility will be spoken about in Prevost’s Manon Lescaut.

[38] I put the word between quotation marks: illusion is tighter only if there’s preface to support it. But a background purpose of eighteenth-century prefaces is to support and break the illusion at the same time.

[39] In Gulliver's Travels and Dangerous Liaisons prefaces are written by two (or more) senders who are always concerned with same issues - proving or denying the truthfulness - even though they might be defending opposite and often conflicting attitudes.

[40] This is confirmed by its title invented as a language trick-device: advertise - to make something known generally or in public, esp. in order to sell it (Cambridge International Dictionary of English). The editor had, thus, written Advertisement as his public announcement, which may serve the purpose of more successful selling of the book.

[41] Prevost, History of Manon Lescaut, London George Rutledge and Sons, 1886, p. xvii

[42] The main story is here de Grieux's life-story.

[43] Prevost, Ibid., p. 8

[44] See: Ian Watt, The Rise of the Novel, ch. 2: The Reading Public and the Rise of the Novel

[45] Tinayanov-Jacobsen, p. 299

[46] Ibid., p. 272

[47] P.N. Medvedev, Formalni metod u nauci o knizevnosti, Beograd, 1976, p. 248

[48] This somewhat resembles the question - Which came first: the chicken or the egg? If there’s no change there could be no evolution; if there’s no evolution then there could be no change. As for prefaces, evolution is always equal to the change.

[49] Tinyanov-Jacobsen, p. 291

[50]Intertekstualnost & autoreferencijalnost, p. 116

[51] Laclos, Dangerous Liaisons, Oxford University Press, 1998; translated by Douglas Parmée. All further quotations from Dangerous Liaisons are taken from this translation.

[52] Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Julie, or The New Eloise, University Press of New England, 1997, p. 19

[53] Full title of the book is Julie, or The New Eloise: Letters of Two Lovers, Inhabitants of a Small Town at the Foot of the Alps, Collected and Published by J.-J. Rousseau..

[54] Danilo Kis, Cas anatomije (The Anatomy Lesson), Sarajevo, 1990, p. 110. Translation from Serbian is mine.

[55]A Note to the Second Preface is not counted.

Genette's classification of prefaces will be applied to (foot)notes, implying that all notes coming from Rousseau should be defined as authorial. Since Rousseau presents himself as the publisher, most of the notes belong to the fictive-allographic type.

[56] Rousseau entitled it only as Preface, but since there's another - Second - preface in the text, I will hereby designate the former as the First Preface.

[57] Rousseau, Ibid., p. 375. The mentioned letter to d'Alembert is real.

[58] This time classification is mine.

[59] Julie's mother is not in the picture, because she is a totally insignificant character in the novel.

[60] Rousseau, New Eloise, Pennsylvania State University Press, 1968, p. 284.

[61]Ibid., p. 189

[62]Ibid., p. 233

[63]Ibid., p. 333

[64]Ibid., p. 282

[65]Ibid., p. 124

[66]Ibid., p. 194

[67] It may be useful to mention one "epitextual" fragment, according to which Rousseau had been deadly in love with Mme Sophie d’Houdetot, the lover of his best friend. Several parts of New Eloise allude to this relationship, thus representing a kind of para-autobiography. Rousseau’s Confessions speak about the connection between the text and reality: "I saw my Julie in Madame d'Houdetot, and soon I saw only Madame d’Houdetot." (Book IX)

[68] Since its inclusion to the novel, the preface has been called Preface-Annex.

[69] Milica Vinaver-Ković, p. 77

[70] Such a possibility was not altogether impossible at that time in France, because shortly before Diderot wrote his novel, it really happened that a nun Marguerite Delamarre had escaped from the convent. The event had shaken Paris, and thus served Diderot and his friends as inspiration for their original idea.

[71] Milica Vinaver-Kovic, p. 69

[72] This is a full title of the Preface-Annex. The year of 1760 is mentioned in the there, which is contrary to the real state of affairs - Grimm wrote that preface ten years later, in 1770. Naturally, the devilish change comes from Diderot.

[73] Diderot, Memoirs of a Nun, Elek Books, 1959, p. 195

[74]Ibid., p. 197

[75] Danilo Kis, p. 109

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