A foremost novelist of the neo-traditionalist school of English letters told his audience in Burr Hall yesterday to watch "those novelists who are trying to do something different."
Angus Wilson, whose writing has been adapted to the traditional mode of the English novel of manners, sharply criticized his fellow traditionalists for attempting to impose this form on all contemporary novelists. In particular, he chided C. P. Snow for suggesting that "the only healthy, mature way of writing is in the traditional pattern."
Wilson, whose best-known novels are Anglo-Saxon Attitudes and the recently published The Middle Age of Mrs. Eliot, singled out the experimental novelist, William Golding, for special praise, calling his The Lord of the Flies the best British novel published since the end of World War II.
Criticizing those who judge all novels against a preconceived moral pattern, Wilson urged that the only quality that one can reasonably demand of a novel its that it reflect a highly personal, passionate response to life, that it be vitally concerned with the fortunes of individual human begins. The function of the novel, he argued, is not to effect reforms or make a sick society well.
Need to Adjust
Wilson also discussed the impact on the novel of the revolutionary changes which have transformed English society in the past 15 years since the end of the war. Almost all contemporary British novelists, Wilson noted, have been faced with the need to adjust to drastic changes in their respective social classes.
He pointed out that many contemporary writers combine a nostalgic attachment for the world that has gone by with a sense of the inevitability and desirability of historical change.
English writers like Kingsley Amis and John Osborne, the one from a lower middle-class, the other from a working-class background, originally favored the social revolution, but have since become disillusioned with the society it has produced, Wilson noted. To these writers, he claimed, the new society allocates the individual even more than did the old.