Barthes failed to keep his plans for his unrealized novel Vita Nova under wraps, according to Kate Briggs, translator of The Preparation of the Novel, Barthes’ lecture notes for two semester-long courses he taught at Collége de France between December 1978 and February 1980, the same period in which he composed much of Mourning Diary. “By the end of the 1970s, apparently ‘everyone knew’ that Roland Barthes was writing a novel,” Briggs writes.
When Barthes’ manuscripts entered the public domain in 1995, the mere eight pages of notes for Vita Nova – which are included in facsimile in this collection – were met with widespread disappointment. At the same time, that discovery cast intriguing new light on Barthes’ lecture course titled La Préparation du roman, which Briggs has translated as The Preparation of the Novel. What was once thought to be Barthes’ own preparation for his novel – an act of distilling his ideas in the classroom as he prepared to write the text – is now seen as something more subtle, and perhaps more applicable to readers and writers alike.