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Historical Fiction

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Historical Fiction anyone? Yes, but is it Art?

Robert Stephen Parry 2011

Sometimes it seems one can hardly go on the internet without encountering some passionate debate or forum in which everyone agonizes endlessly over whether historical fiction should be factual, about whether novelists should strive for accuracy, or whether straying from the known facts at any moment is at all good for any of us.

In an age when, some might argue, the genre is in danger of becoming little more than a re-packaging of biographical information in the 1st person, here is one writer's humble view on the subject - the main thrust of which is that historical fiction (be it good bad or indifferent) is actually LITERATURE; that literature is art; and that artists ... well, they're a funny lot, aren't they! They just don't seem to know when to stick to the rules!

A picture is worth a thousand words, they say, so here goes:

THIS IS HISTORY (Bombing of Guernica 1937)

THIS IS ART (Guernica by Picasso)


THIS IS HISTORY (quite interesting, really)

THIS IS ART (Handel's Messiah - 'nuff said?)


THIS IS HISTORY (French Revolution 1789)

THIS IS ART (a spot of Dickens 1859)

So, get the idea? No footnotes, no apologies, no agonising and wringing of hands, no looking over shoulders in case some academic celebrity or the other might be wagging their fingers. Let's just do historical fiction instead, shall we.

But is it Art?

You bet.

picture of Picasso's famous painting entitled 'Guernica' black and white photo of the aftermath of destruction at Guernica, Spain in 1937 - ruined buildings sheet music to Handel's Messiah cover to an historical book entitled 'Archaeology and Bible History' old drawing of the guillotine and depiction of the French Revolution of 1789 cover to the novel 'A Tale of Two Cities' by Dickens Poetry Readings logo with quill and heart shapes Picture with tophat and a coronet linking to Goths and Toffs page - characters in the novels text link with brown background to historical fiction home page

The debate on historical accuracy in novels

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