"I'd sometimes come to prefer reading about the lives of certain writers to reading their works; for example, I'm more familiar with Kafka's Diaries than with his oeuvre, with Tolstoy's Notebooks than with the rest of Tolstoy (apparently this is a very 'camp' attitude)."*
The Preparation of the Novel includes Barthes's last writings before his death in 1980. Below is a description of the book from its publisher (of particular interest to me is Barthes's "pedagogical experiment"):
Completed just weeks before his death, the lectures in this volume mark a critical juncture in the career of Roland Barthes, in which he declared the intention, deeply felt, to write a novel. Unfolding over the course of two years, Barthes engaged in a unique pedagogical experiment: he combined teaching and writing to "simulate" the trial of novel-writing, exploring every step of the creative process along the way.
Barthes's lectures move from the desire to write to the actual decision making, planning, and material act of producing a novel. He meets the difficulty of transitioning from short, concise notations (exemplified by his favorite literary form, haiku) to longer, uninterrupted flows of narrative, and he encounters a number of setbacks. Barthes takes solace in a diverse group of writers, including Dante, whose was similarly inspired by the death of a loved one, and he turns to classical philosophy, Taoism, and the works of François-René Chateaubriand, Gustave Flaubert, Franz Kafka, and Marcel Proust.
This book uniquely includes eight elliptical plans for Barthes's unwritten novel, which he titled , and lecture notes that sketch the critic's views on photography. Following on and a third forthcoming collection of Barthes lectures, this volume provides an intensely personal account of the labor and love of writing.
*Barthes, Roland. “The Work as Will: Notes for a Lecture Course at the Collège de France.” The Preparation of the Novel: Lecture Course and Seminars at the Collège de France (1978-1979 and 1979-1980). New York: Columbia U Press, 2010. P. 208