Early Modern Fiction

In the early modern era, around 1500, there was no differentiation between fact and fiction. Apparently we are returning to this belief.

Most, in short, didn’t really care whether the book was accurate or not, at least in the western, scientific, logical, factual sense, and they regarded criticism as simply reactionary bias.

from Rigoberta’s Revenge

“I think Rigoberta Menchu has been used by the right to negate the very important space that multiculturalism is providing in academia,” says Marjorie Agosin, head of the Spanish department at Wellesley College. “Whether her book is true or not, I don’t care. We should teach our students about the brutality of the Guatemalan military and the U.S. financing of it.” …. What matters, professors say, is that the kinds of crimes she wrote of were committed by the military, and indigenous people such as Ms. Menchu bore the brunt of the violence. “Even if she didn’t watch her little brother being murdered, the military did murder people in Guatemala,” says Ms. Agosin of Wellesley.

If it doesn’t matter if it is true or not, then is it fiction or autobiography? Will autobiography soon become fiction? How many other autobiographies have actually been fictional?

I’ve heard of one about drug abuse. One that was supposedly by a slave. What are their names? I don’t remember. What others are there?

Think of

2 thoughts on “Early Modern Fiction”

  1. You’re thinking of A Million Little Pieces, an Oprah book selection. I don’t remember the slave narrative, but I’m sure a quick google search would reveal it soon enough. In Canada, one of the most famous fictional autobiographies is by Fredrick Philip Grove. He made up who he was, his history, etc. It was all very scandalous. I currently am studying the works of Dany Laferriere, a Haitian-Canadian writer. He calls his collection of books his American Autobiography, but each individual book is categorized as a “novel.” His works are largely autobiographical, but as he himself has stated, he is more interested in creating emotional truth, rather than historical truth. I am interested in his writing because of the blurring between fiction and reality. How can someone write about their childhood and never mention their sister?

    Just discovered your site. It’s wonderful.

  2. You are correct; it was Frey’s book that I was thinking of.

    An article I stumbled across while looking for the fake slave autobiography said, “[W]e love comforting fictions more than we love the truth.”

    The author of the article, an English professor named Laura Browder, blames the audience for faux autobiographies: “[U]ntil our expectations change, the impersonator autobiography is sure to make its appearance — and to find a receptive readership. It will be a new day in America when it doesn’t.”

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