History in Fiction

There are two articles in today’s Guardian about the use of history in fiction.

Helen Dunmore’s piece begins like this:

A novelist who uses historical material in fiction has to go beyond the black and white, beyond the received images which are so familiar that our eyes are dulled to them, beyond the speeches and public cheering faces, and into the colour, intimacy and resonance of being alive at that time, not knowing what is to come, unaware of one’s place in history, of analyses that will be made or outcomes that will be debated.

This made me chortle more than somewhat, because it seems to be the exact opposite of her practice, at least in her poem about John Kipling. Or maybe she has repented and developed  since she wrote that. So let us rejoice for a sinner repentant.

Historian Antony Beevor’s warnings about the muddying of the waters caused by mixing fact and fiction, on the other hand, seem to me to be spot on.


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