There are some very good novelists who nevertheless have a deficiency for me, which is that they carry their style from book to book. They could be writing something in the voice of Bambi or something about their ex-wife, and they have the same tone, the same pace; the prose is the same.I would put forward one obvious example even if O'Hagan won't. O'Hagan's interest in novel writing is precisely to avoid this tendency and instead to let a new character speak.
The opposition is a compelling means of defining one's relation to fiction. One might say Fielding's way is the fiction of control and Richardson's the fiction of discovery. But maybe there is another, obscurer path. There are many novelists who sound the same from book to book yet are nothing like my obvious example. For me, the obvious examples of this type of novelist are Bernhard and Blanchot. While Bernhard's novels are ostensibly narrated by separate individuals, they all happen to write like Bernhard, and Blanchot's fiction, particularly his later récit (which as I've made clear often enough aren't always to my taste) have a relentless anonymity and offer only fragments of a familiar world.
Reading Bernhard, one is eventually overwhelmed not only by the voice but also by what the voice is speaking in order to resist. And in reading Blanchot, language itself begins to speak separated from the individuals - author or character - who might otherwise have appropriated it. Both writers might be unloading the same narrative voice but it is not for reasons of control. Yet nor are they bringing to presence a strange other. It's something beyond both. Blanchot suggests what in After the Fact:
Prior to the work, the work of art, the work of writing, the work of words, there is no artist - neither a writer nor a speaking subject - since it is the production that produces the producer, bringing to life or making him appear in the act of substantiating him [...] But if the written work produces and substantiates the writer, once created it bears witness only to his dissolution, his disappearance, his defection and, to express it more brutally, his death, which itself can never be definitively verified: for it is a death that can never produce any verification.Thanks to Lars Spurious for bringing this quotation to my attention.