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View Diary: Bookflurries-Bookchat: Weaving a World for Readers (191 comments)

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  •  How Coincidental That You Should Say This (10+ / 0-)

    I just finished The Corpse Reader by Antonio Garrido, which is historical fiction based on the actual person Ci Song, the purported Father of Forensic Medicine.

    At the end of the novel Garrido engages in a long afterward ranging over exactly this issue -- the concept of the historical novel.

    He discusses the three typologies described by Umberto Eco:

    1) The romantic novel w/ historical setting where both characters and background are fictitious but appear to have lived in the time.  Bernard Cornwell's Warlord Chronicles novels are the example.

    2) Eco's "cloak and dagger"novels wherein historically real characters are placed in fictional situations that never occurred.  Think Scott, Dumas, and Tolstoy.

    3) And "real" historical fiction in which fictitious characters act in historically veracious situations.  Eco's books are this kind.  The kind of stories I like best.

    Garrido says that the best historical fiction occurs when the fiction is plausible -- characters should think, feel and act according to what we know about them and their lives and times but not be restricted to what is known about them.  Otherwise you end up with a poor biography or essay.

    Historical fiction is interesting when the novels "claim the history of the everyday". . .the pain, sickness, joys, and dreams of people rather than just the glory of the battles and documented events.

    So, if you're going to write about the first forensic "pathologist," you must be faithful to the techniques he used --  his process, procedure, analysis, instruments, and materials.  While there has to be room for dramatic license, you can't go and make that stuff up.

    Use the imagination, don't abuse it.

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    by Limelite on Wed Aug 21, 2013 at 07:41:25 PM PDT

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    •  Thanks!! (6+ / 0-)

      What is worrisome is when an author picks say an artist and then writes as if some of the things are known that are not known...say that he cheats on his wife or his wife is a shrew or that he slept with his model just because that has happened often in the times to other artists.

      I say if we don't know that really happened, it is a smear on the person.

      That is when I wish the author would just write a fiction story of a painter and not name him.  It would still take good research and be interesting, but it wouldn't smear the poor artist.

      But Garrido's points are excellent for historical fiction as long as we know it is fiction...thanks for sharing them!

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      by cfk on Wed Aug 21, 2013 at 07:52:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  This ... (6+ / 0-)
      Historical fiction is interesting when the novels "claim the history of the everyday". . .the pain, sickness, joys, and dreams of people rather than just the glory of the battles and documented events.
      This is why we need historical fiction, I think (and my other love, archaeology). "Real" history too often leaves out everyday life--and women! To me, everyday life is what matters.

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