Nov. 19th, 2011

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I am sorry if someone already posted about this book, I did not find anything in the tag.
A couple of months ago I finished to read the new edition of Robespierre, derniers temps by J.Ph. Domecq, as I was curious to read about an alternative approach to historical narration. I am not an historian myself, but I am interested in history and as a writer (to-be?), historical fiction is my preferred genre.
The book is an interesting experiment, although, in my opinion, the author sets to himself a too high task; for those of you who might have not read it, it is an attempt to explain the behaviour of Robespierre in the nigh of Thermidor through what the author calls `intuition de la littérature'. The book is not completely fiction and it is constructed around quotation of various sources (primarily Robespierre's speeches), fragmented by an attempt of narrative and various thought of Domecq himself.
The experiment was at first curious, but it soon become really annoying and personally I do not think it achieved anything new; moreover the fictive portions were not enjoyable.
Furthermore at the end of the book is attached a shorter essay (La littérature comme acupuncture) about the role and the theory of historical fiction and the eventual contribution that a writer can give to a historian. It starts from a very sharp critic of another novel, Littell's Les Bienfaisants (that I personally enjoyed as a reading), to debate about the reception both in Literature and in History of Robespierre's figure.
Now, some questions for you. I was curious to know your opinion if you have read the book. Secondly, what is for you `good historical fiction'? I have read mostly discontent with fiction settled during the French Revolution, so it will be interesting to have some debate about what would be a good fiction (if it is actually possible to have one). Moreover what is the relation between (good) historical fiction and History itself, taking to account the fact that we are speaking of two really different genres with very different rules?


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