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Alphonse Daudet (1840–1897). Five Short Stories.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.

Criticisms and Interpretations. II. By George Pellissier

DAUDET works in a sort of fever. Even before beginning to write his books, he has related, acted, and almost “lived” them. This habit responds to a necessity of his nature, and this he also constitutes his process of composition. The original sketch is only an improvisation, but with the second version begins what he calls the painful part of his labor. He first abandons himself to his fancy, giving free rein to his troubadour instincts. The subject urges him on and outstrips him; his hand glides rapidly over the paper without writing all the words, or even pausing to punctuate, in the effort to follow the fever of his toiling brain by hastily stenographing ideas and sentiments. Only with that “trembling of the fingers,” with him a sign of inspiration, does he take up his pen. He at once launches into the full current of the action. As his figures are already “on foot in his mind,” he loses no time in introducing them in full activity. The greater part of his novels consists in a series of pictures or episodes which pass in file beneath our eyes. There are no preludes either at the outset or in passing from one chapter to another; he explains the situation by a word, leaving the reader to imagine such events as are not adapted to an entirely actual mise en scène. He renders only what moves his heart and sets his nerves in vibration—what is dramatic, picturesque, and animated in human affairs.—From “The Literary Movement in France in the Nineteenth Century” (1893).