>What is History?

>There’s an interesting article in the current New Yorker (Just the Facts, Ma’am) that looks at a different aspect of the controversy over the recent spate of fake memoirs. What is history? What is truth? What’s a true history? It’s an interesting topic, if not entirely relevant to the current problem, but it does include some valuable observations about the difference between novels and histories:

“Fiction . . . can do what history doesn’t but should: it can tell the story of ordinary people. The eighteenth century’s fictive history (not to be confused with what we call “historical fiction”) is the history of private life; the history of what passes in a man’s own mind.”

It goes on to emphasize that the subject of many such “histories” are women, which would not have been true of the actual histories.

I’ve always been fascinated by the notion that while non-fiction deals (or should deal) in truth, fiction can and should address something bigger than that, something more universal: the Truth.

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