Fear in Writing: History as Literature

Today in Literary History

Today in Literary History...December 14, 1907: Rudyard Kipling receives the Nobel prize for literature, the first English-language writer to do so.ud

Monday, March 7, 2011

History as Literature

"Why does history have to be a story told by sensible people and not the delirious raving of losers...?  If history--as appears to be the case--is just another literary genre, why take away from it the imagination, the foolishness, the indiscretion, the exaggeration, and the defeat that are the raw material without which literature is inconceivable?"
Tomás Eloy Martínez in Santa Evita, p. 129

What do you think?


  1. Because history is history. It really happened. There are first-source materials for a great deal of it. Historical fiction is wonderful, because it brings events of the past to the present, but history isn't historical fiction. Get beyond the textbooks and look at the sources. It may not be what you were taught in school, but history happened.

  2. I believe there already is a certain amount of license taken with history. My husband was a history major and the differing accounts of the exact same event was staggering.

  3. I think imagination makes history more interesting, so I love historical fiction, but even there authors need to be very clear where they've taken liberties so the readers know. So long as it is clear that the events are being told through a character's perspective, the character can be ANYTHING (have rose colored glasses, be bitter and have a selective memory, be a lunatic) but i think it's irresponsible to present something as historical if the reader can't tell that... that it is only one characters view on the matter.

    Actual history DOES already have an agenda as to how it's recorded, and i wish there was better disclosure--particularly the middle age stuff where only the clergy were literate--talk about a biased accounting.

  4. But those that there aren't first source material for, aren't we just taking the word of those who were there or who heard it themselves from someone else? And how much of the first-source material is colored by opinion? Is the opinion of a sane, government sanctioned person more valid than that of a crazy or emotional individual?

    I don't know...