Polyphonic novels are not new, not a thing, and not for beginning writers. They are an art form used by writers of a certain age, who collectively have or had a loose association with the truth. That is why writing about ethics and polyphonic novels is like sitting on both ends of a teeter saw, simultaneously and expecting it to balance itself. On the fiction end, there is no truth, but a pound or two of plausibility. On the other end, there is objective truth.
Madame Wike puts it like this. “In literature, polyphony is a feature of narrative, which includes a diversity of simultaneous points of view and voices. Caryl Emerson describes it as ‘a decentered authorial stance that grants validity to all voices.’ Mikhail Bakhtin introduced the concept, by using a metaphor based on the musical term polyphony. Bakhtin’s primary example of polyphony was Fyodor Dostoevsky’s prose. According to Bakhtin, the chief characteristic of Dostoevsky’s novels is ‘a plurality of independent and unmerged voices and consciousnesses, a genuine polyphony of fully valid voices.’ His major characters are, ‘by the very nature of his creative design, not only objects of authorial discourse but also subjects of their own directly signifying discourse.’”
The breadcrumbs tortuously leading us through the literary forest loosely defined by Madame Wiki are the writers she blames for polyphonic novels—Caryl Emerson—Mikhail Bakhtin—Fyodor Dostoevsky.
Caryl Emerson is Professor Emeritus of Slavic Languages and Literatures at Princeton University. Her work has focused on the Russian classics (Pushkin, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky), and Mikhail Bakhtin. You might note the spelling difference between Dostoevsky and Dostevskii. Blame that on the fact that she is a professor of Slavic languages.
Mikhail Mikhailovich Bakhtin was a Russian philosopher, literary critic and scholar who worked on literary theory, ethics, and the philosophy of language.
Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky was a Russian novelist, short story writer, essayist, and journalist. His literary works explored the human condition in the troubled political, social, and spiritual atmospheres of 19th-century Russia. He engaged philosophical and religious themes.
Polyphony is a narrative form based on a diversity of simultaneous points of view and voices. Professor Emerson called it “a decentered authorial stance that grants validity to all voices.” Mikhail Bakhtin introduced the concept as a metaphor based on the musical term polyphony– the simultaneous combination of two or more tones or melodic lines. In turn, Bakhtin’s prime example of the narrative concept was Fyodor Dostoevsky‘s prose. As he put it, “Dostoevsky’s novels are ‘a plurality of independent and unmerged voices and consciousnesses, a genuine polyphony of fully valid voices.’ His major characters are, ‘by the very nature of his creative design, not only objects of authorial discourse but also subjects of their own directly signifying discourse.“ 
Polyphony in literature is the consequence of a dialogic sense of truth combined with the special authorial position that makes possible the realization of that sense on the page. The dialogic sense of truth is an unusual way of understanding the world to that of the monologic. Dostoevsky’s novels, according to Bakhtin, cannot be understood from within the monological tradition of western thought, a way of thinking about ‘truth’ that has dominated religion, science, philosophy, and literature for many centuries.
In a novel, polyphony is metaphorical, not intended to be taken as objective true. It could just as easily be called a false narrative. Some readers take it a truthful, others as playful, and most as mere conflicting ideological positions. At least one expert called it “a novel . . . without being placed and judged by an authoritative authorial voice.”
Therein lies an ethical norm—an authoritative authorial voice. This voice is confident and knowledgeable—one you can trust not to lead you astray. It is objectively true, or at the very least, the author believes it to be true. The Slavic writers noted above were objectively true to what they believed. Many took it as their truth, even in the face of existing contrary facts. Does that sound like anyone we know in recent political history?
This blog is not about Trump or Trumpism. It is about the ethics of polyphony novels, which neither he nor anyone in his rally crowd, ever read. This blog is in search of a binary true/not true reality. The search failed.
Modern polyphonic novels simply pose ethical dilemmas to readers. Where is the author? The narrator? What narrative is untold between different voices in the book? This novel form disrupts any conventional linear reading pattern; it will not allow a monologic reading. Readers must multitask, read one voice and then another, comparing, contrasting, and page turning. There is no authorial voice. Only contradiction, disruption, and simultaneous, competing discourse.
 Emerson, Caryl. “Mikhail Bakhtin“. Filosofia: An Encyclopedia of Russian Thought.
 Bakhtin, Mikhail (1984). Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics.” University of Minnesota Press. pp. 6–7.
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