Well, there are lots of excellent storytellers who are simply storytellers, and I think it’s a wonderful gift, after all. I suppose the extreme example is Dumas: that extraordinary old gentleman, who sat down and thought nothing of writing six volumes of The Count of Monte Cristo in a few months. And my God, Monte Cristo is damned good! But it isn’t the last word. When you can find storytelling which carries at the same time a kind of parable-like meaning (such as you get, say, in Dostoyevsky or in the best of Tolstoy), this is something extraordinary, I feel. I’m always flabbergasted when I reread some of the short things of Tolstoy, like The Death of Ivan Ilyich. What an astounding work that is! Or some of the short things of Dostoyevsky, like Notes from Underground.
I think fiction, and biography and history, are the forms. I think one can say much more about general abstract ideas in terms of concrete characters and situations, whether fictional or real, than one can in abstract terms. [ ] And I must say I think that probably all philosophy ought to be written in this form; it would be much more profound and much more edifying. It’s awfully easy to write abstractly, without attaching much meaning to the big words. But the moment you have to express ideas in the light of a particular context, in a particular set of circumstances, although it’s a limitation in some ways, it’s also an invitation to go much further and much deeper. I think that fiction and, as I say, history and biography are immensely important, not only for their own sake, because they provide a picture of life now and of life in the past, but also as vehicles for the expression of general philosophic ideas, religious ideas, social ideas. My goodness, Dostoyevsky is six times as profound as Kierkegaard !
In fiction you have the reconciliation of the absolute and the relative, so to speak, the expression of the general in the particular. And this, it seems to me, is the exciting thing—both in life and in art.
Aldous Huxley, Interviewed by Raymond Fraser, George Wickes
The Art of Fiction No. 24