History and narrative

David Foster has up an interesting post about fiction and non-fiction. In recent years I've been reading more history than was my early habit, when I tended more to fiction. I find that I have a hard time remembering the history and keeping it straight unless I can tie it into fictional worlds. Modern fiction set in historical periods can be a problem, since most authors jam everything so full of anachronisms, but this problem can be ameliorated slightly by reading fiction written during the time in question. The trick is not to take the fiction as an accurate statement of history, but as a suggestion of what facts an author of that period took for granted, and what things hadn't even occurred to him yet.


Grim said...

I only wish more novelists could be relied upon to have the kind of background in history and mental flexibility that would make that possible. What amazing books they would write! Even the ones that come close, with clear anachronisms, are great services.

David Foster said...

Thanks for the link, Tex. Re historical novels, I strongly recommend Thomas Flanagan's "The Year of the French", which Ralph Peters called the best historical novel written in English at least in the 20th century.

My review: