In case you’re new to Medium Cool, BGinCHI is here once a week to offer a thread on culture, mainly film & books, with some TV thrown in. We’re here at 7 pm on Sunday nights.
Next semester I’m teaching a class I’m calling Real Fictions. It will be anchored by Laurent Binet’s brilliant novel HHhH, which is fiction based on historical facts, featuring a narrator who relentlessly interrogates the very idea of whether fiction ought to take on factual subjects.
Instead of autofiction (where the writer offers a realistic, often blow by blow account of his/her life experience, most recently popularized by the Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgård), I’m interested in texts that are more historical, especially ones that foreground the question of how we know the past, how history is constructed through narrative, etc.
So let’s discuss this subject. What novels or other written fictions can you think of that deal with this subject? Are there films and other media that do this too?
You mean fictional stories set amidst and tentpoled by real historical facts and events?
Like ‘Titanic, but good?
I think Tom Wolfe got at this pretty well. Electric Koolaid Acid Test opened my teenage eyes.
I do have a masters degree, but I don’t know what this means. Can some nice person please explain? Thx!
I think Hidden Figures does a good job with this, too. Good movie, excellent book.
The movie Fargo, which has a title card,”based on a true story,” but isn’t. The movie plays with, even mocks the idea of fiction inspired by truth.
My formative text on historical fiction was Slaughterhouse 5, of course. Billy Pilgrim doesn’t interrogate the concept, but his unreliability causes the text itself to question whether any of us actually ever knows what the hell is going on! :)
@Tony Jay: Kind of.
But more specifically self-conscious about the push/pull of history/narrative. And I don’t mean just historical fiction, in which real events are fictionalized to make them dramatic, fill in the blanks, etc. This is part of it, but I’m, curious about about historiography and fictional narrative intersect (which they always do, as Hayden White, among others, has shown us).
History is often how we misremember the past so we can lie about the future.
There is always Pears’ The Instance of the Fingerpost which has a lot of fun with the reliability of historical documents. Well, among other things.
@HinTN: The new journalism gets at this too, but from a different angle. Appreciate the reminder.
@HinTN: Or, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, either the book or the Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro film. It all could have happened, and maybe some of it did, although not exactly the way the Thompson said it did. Then again, having been to Circus Circus and some of the other venues in the book, maybe all of it happened exactly the way he said it did. In that case, it’s probably a good thing that Oscar Acosta disappeared into the mists.
Acosta wrote, in the same vein, The Autobiography of a Brown Buffalo. It was all very 70’s.
Jim, Foolish Literalist
The Wolf Hall trilogy would seem to be the most prominent recent example, to no small extent written against Cromwell’s usual reputation, especially I gather the way he appears in A Man For All Seasons, which I still haven’t gotten around to reading/seeing.
How about Tim Powers’ Declare ? A reimagining of the events around the life & career of Kim Philby, as a decades-long battle against genies and demons in the Middle East, and figuring prominently in the history of the Soviet Union ?
Lotta fun, actually.
@Scout211: How do we “know” what happens in any set of historical events? They have to be put into a narrative, and that narrative involves interpretation (choices, emphases, myopia, biases, etc.).
A book like HHhH, which also happens to be an exciting page-turner, is extremely self-conscious about how past events are constructed. That’s what I’m interested in.
It asks a lot of questions about whether fiction ought to take on historical subjects, how it should do that, and so on.
Mike in NC
I read Binet’s book a few years ago and enjoyed it.
The Coens really have it on there as they (again) deconstruct the detective/murder mystery genre.
@Benw: That’s a great example of a book that plays with a familiar genre (war, war trauma) and turns it inside out.
Reminds me I need to re-read that.
@Omnes Omnibus: Putting that on my list. Thanks for the reminder!
The first thing that comes to mind is The Seventh Function of Language by, let’s see… Laurent Binet.
It’s a police procedural about a fifty-something Parisian detective who has an investigation of the death of Roland Barthes thrust upon him. Barthes was hit by a truck, an apparent accident, save that Barthes had just met with Francois Mitterand, the President of France.
The detective seeks out a guide to Barthes’ postmodernist milieux, and comes upon a graduate student in semiotics — who better to uncover the hidden meanings of signs? And what is evidence other than signs?
(There is a brutal caricature of Camille Paglia, which may be worth the price of admission in itself.)
Time to re-read that. But HHhH sounds good, too.
@Scout211: @BGinCHI: Was there a prerequisite for this class?
@Omnes Omnibus: This is the one I thought of too. I remember that book being a total mind-f*ck.
Jim, Foolish Literalist
Heh. Makes me want to re-read Molly Ivins, “sheesh, what an asshole’ review. As twitter Nixon might say, “Is she still here?” Paglia seems to have faded into well-deserved obscurity.
Not sure if this is what you mean but Tim O’ Brien’s books: The Things They Carried, In The Lake Of The Woods, and Going After Cacciato I think all had elements of this, but it was more about the unreliability of memory from war (Vietnam). So major events that you think went one way, you find out went entirely another (or are left ambiguous) after recounting from another source.
Does Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief fall into the category of books that you are discussing?
@Jim, Foolish Literalist: Those books are the finest historical fiction of the last hundred years, I think. I love and admire them.
But in this case they won’t work because….well….they’re just too seamless and smooth. She’s so good at taking that period of history (which is one of my specialties) and narrativizing it that we pretty much forget to think about how she does it.
Or maybe it’s just me. I devoured those books and they’re so pleasurable.
@Chetan Murthy: I like Powers and will have a look.
@BGinCHI: It’s a really excellent book.
@dm: I actually taught it right after it came out. Students (MA-level) didn’t get most of the references, but damn it was a lot of fun.
WHAT a novel that is.
@WaterGirl: Just curiosity.
Does Red Pleny by Francis Spufford count? Part history of operations research, part fictional portrayal of a time when mathematicians and engineers might have been able to make something of the Soviet Union, except, well, people aren’t cogs in a machine. It’s hard to say where the book fits between history and fiction.
Yes, agreed. TTTC especially has that meta- level thinking that I’m looking for.
I think Going After Cacciato is a very, very underrated novel.
@Starfish: Haven’t read it.
I liked his first novel and haven’t read the one you mention.
I’ll have a look. Excellent writer.
Hey BG — did you see A-ville voted second best neighborhood in the world. (They must have seen me at Calo’s lol)
@BGinCHI: I want to re-read it, but I need to get it back from my dad first.
@BGinCHI: Just teasing because I had to look up 3 words in your first few comments. :-)
How about Erik Larsen’s books, e.g. Devil in the White City, or am I taking this too literally?
I second the recommendations for both An instance of the fingerpost and Declare. Both are wonderful.
@delk: I did!
#1 is a ‘hood in Denmark where one of my oldest friends works, so we had a virtual laugh about being 1-2 on the planet.
Suck it, Lincoln Square! (kidding, I wish we had Gene’s)
@Jim, Foolish Literalist: I had to google around to retrieve Paglia’s name. I don’t know whether that says more about my aging neurons or Paglia’s 21st-century irrelevance.
@Sure Lurkalot: Kind of, yeah. Books like Larson’s aren’t playful enough in the sense that they’re both telling a story and trying to grapple with how storytelling and history go together in complex ways.
@dm: If you want to go there, there’s always Crime and Punishment.
Front and center: W.G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn (1995). I love that book. The unnamed narrator sets out on a walking tour in East Anglia, and people and places he encounters lead to all sorts of meditations and digressions, except they’re not really digressions. They are just tendrils stretching into Sebald’s “paper universe” where fiction, travel, biography, myth and memoir all blend together. It is dreamlike, almost hypnotic.
@BGinCHI: Agree on both.
Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles and House of Nicolo.
@BGinCHI: Did you ever read Lake Of The Woods? Not as great or literary of a book as TTTC or GAC, but it really did this questioning of memories/narratives thing, even better than the others. That’s the main thing I loved about it, actually.
@Steeplejack: It’s a truly great novel, but I don’t think I have the courage to teach it…..
Is Stephenson’s Baroque Trilogy in the ballpark?
@UncleEbeneezer: I did. Right when it came out, as I’ve always been a huge fan. I wish I could say I remembered it, but it sits vaguely in my memory. Probably worth a revisit.
@tomtofa: Too long for a class, and as much as I like him, those aren’t my favorite books. They also just fictionalize history without much regard for what’s at stake in doing so. But I may be misremembering.
Not at all sure it’s what you’re inquiring about but for meticulous depiction of a specific time and setting in history within a fictionalized narrative, Caleb Carr’s The Alienist comes to mind.
Perhaps much more on point as history per se, Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart.
I love Dunnett, but, like Hilary Mantel, she just writes great historical fiction, smooth as silk. No seams showing.
Carr is an excellent historical novelist. I loved that book. But it’s straight historical fiction.
Ah, got you.
I recently watched the Elton John biopic Rocketman and, once I got over the random insertion of loosely relevant songs I quite enjoyed it, but at no point did I believe a word of it.
Correction, I believed ten words. “Yeah, but I started acting like a cunt in 1975“.
Now, if we’d seen the story of that Elton John in the same situations referenced in Rocketman it would have been a hot stonker of a film.
This is probably not a great example, but I immediately thought of The Last Stone: A Masterpiece of Criminal Interrogation, by Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down. It’s the story of a cold case, the disappearance of two pre-teen sisters from a suburb of DC in the 1970s, with the investigation revived in the 2000s. It’s basically a well-written true-crime police procedural. A lot of what we find out, though, is from a rape/murder suspect who is an inveterate and obvious liar. By the end, the reader is left thinking (maybe) that we might have a better guess what happened, but by now it may be impossible to know.
@BGinCHI: really, even better historical fiction than the Aubrey/Maturin series? Those are also too much of the time the books are set in, but I think they’re amazing
@BGinCHI: Try Spufford’s latest novel, Light Perpetual. It was long-listed for the Booker Prize this year.
@tomtofa: @BGinCHI: you’ve probably already thought of this, but Snow Crash is much shorter and does allocate a bunch of brain cells on the topic of how we know what we know about ancient civilations and religions. Plus sword fights!
I might argue a case for Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin novels. They are sniffed at because they were so damn popular, but they are a monumental achievement: not just ripping yarns but a portrait of British society circa 1800-1820 reminiscent of Jane Austen—with guns! And O’Brian’s writing style is very sophisticated. He flows from action to the inner thoughts of various characters and back seamlessly. And what a great gallery of characters.
They were enjoyable, too. My kids couldn’t put them down.
@Tony Jay: That word throws you into moderation.
I had a historical fiction kick a few years back, and I really enjoyed stuff by Sharon Kay Penman.
Here Be Dragons is based on the real life marriage between Llewelyn the Great of Wales and Joanna, the illegitimate daughter of King John on of England. If memory serves, there was a postscript at the end that discussed what was factual within the book, what was apocryphal, and what blanks were filled in with fiction. (eg dialogue)
She also had a medieval mystery series about a fictional character who worked for/with Eleanor of Aquitaine. The first one was called The Queen’s Man. More loosely based within historical events than being historically based, if that makes sense, but still a nice read.
I read a few others of her novels back in the day, but those are the 2 that stick with me, even now
Eta – upon googling, it seems Penman passed away earlier this year.
Ah! I did wonder. Blame Elton.
If we’re talking historical fiction I’m not sure how no one has mentioned George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman Papers, as a review of historic events and the people who made it… footnoted for those who wish to follow each rabbit down its hole. If you’re talking alternate history then you can see either Harry Turtledove of old SF author H. Beam Piper and his Paratime stories.
LOL, I wouldn’t envy you that task. Just thought it deserved a mention.
Coming from the other direction, I would offer Primo Levi’s “memoir” The Periodic Table (1975) as a nice bookend to Sebald. It is a memoir, to be sure, but told as a nonlinear series of chapters that Wikipedia (I was somewhat surprised to see) calls “short stories.” It has been quite a while since I read it, but I don’t remember it being presented as fiction. Go figure. But I think it fits your theme.
anyway, anything that gets this kind of response goes right on my reading list! Yay! Also, thanks for the HHhH tip, I’m excited to read that too.
This probably isn’t what you’re looking for, but Josephine Tey wrote a mystery novel somewhere back in the 50s called The Daughter of Time. The detective who was her usual protagonist is bedridden, so to keep himself occupied he decides to solve a historic mystery and he delves into the death of the Princes In The Tower, usually blamed on Richard III. It lead to today’s interpretation of R3 as more morally ambiguous rather than the evil twisted mutant you see in Shakespeare’s play.
Picking through the files atored inside the head as regards movies, would at least give a nod in the direction of Admiral (a/k/a Michiel de Ruyter.
As it tries to unravel decades of history involving a wide scope of personages and events, it is unfortunately cluttered in the rush to move on to the cinematic spectacle of naval encounters.
Darkness at Noon is probably the best example I can think of. Some events in history are so hard to understand; why so many Old Bolsheviks cooperated in their own destruction is one of them. Koestler dives deep into why historical narratives are so fraught with uncertainty, all the while humanizing all sides.
The first book that came to mind on this subject was Don De Lillo’s Libra, about Oswald and the JFK assassination. The frame of the book is that the narrator is a CIA researcher or historian (it’s been more than 20 years since I read it, so forgive me) tasked with reviewing all the evidence in the CIA files on the event and reaching some kind of definitive answer from the evidence. If I remember correctly, the narrative, as told in the book, is the one the Warren Commission reached, that Oswald was a lone assassin, but the narrator makes the point that, from all of the evidence available, you could pick and choose and tell any story you wanted about the assassination.
Moviewise, might also mention in passing Europa, Europa.
@Steeplejack: The Periodic Table is a memoir, and, as far as I know, Levi never claimed otherwise and no one has suggested he made up the stories in the book. For those who are not familiar with it, Levi was a chemist by trade, and in the book, he uses different elements as touchstones to examine events from his life. There is a devastating story in it about how, many years after leaving Auschwitz, he is corresponding with a German counterpart about the quality of an ingredient they supplied (which either is or contains the element of the title), and realizes that the man was his German overseer at the camp.
On a humorous level, I think George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman novels fit this post’s theme. They represent the posthumously “discovered” memoirs of Sir Harry Flashman, an “illustrious Victorian soldier” who was present at many of the big events of the period. He was actually a lesser character in Tom Brown’s School Days that Fraser repurposed to romp his way through several genres, both fictional and historical.
Dorothy A. Winsor
Huh. I wonder how historians think of this question.
One of the differences between fiction and life is that fiction nearly always has a plot, ie things are connected, usually by cause and effect. Life has no plot. What I’m doing right now has little connection to what I was doing two hours ago. What I did two hours ago didn’t cause what I’m doing now. This is why fiction is generally more satisfying than life.
I think of historians as creating narrative from data, as looking for cause and effect in past events. But they must interrogate what they do. There’s even a cliche about history being written by the winners. There must be theory there.
I appreciate the examples folks are giving. This is interesting.
@NotMax: and if you really want a movie that takes a historical setting (e.g. the American west) to interrogate deeply whether the discourse that has accrued around that particular set of myths of individuality, masculinity and race is ahistorically serving a modern narrative of oppression, can I suggest…
Just remembered another one, Coming Through Slaughter, by Michael Ondaatje, about the seminal jazz trumpeter Buddy Bolden. Not much is known about Bolden – there are no recordings of him playing – but he was a big influence on many players. So Ondaatje takes the evidence available and manipulates it, adds other real people that Bolden could have come into contact with, like the photographer E.J. Bellocq, and comes up with a history that is almost entirely fictional.
@Mousebumples: The Sunne in Splendour is another good one of hers. Richard III as the main character.
It’s been a long time since I read his stories, but Borges has got to have at least a couple that address this theme.
Definitely. I was looking for my copy of Ficciones just recently.
For fictional history can’t do better than the post-war writings of the Wehrmacht generals.
Can’t believe that War and Peace hasn’t been mentioned.
@Dorothy A. Winsor: Excellent points.
IIRC, War and Peace (and many other military battle histories/fictionalizations) talk about the “if only this had been different” attempts at cause and effect. Ambrose’s Crazy Horse and Custer makes the point that Custer rushed into the battle at the Little Bighorn because he was convinced that a quick glorious victory would get him the GOP Presidential nomination over Grant. If onlys can have a huge impact on what results, and one has to assume that many, many of the pivotal events were lost to us.
@Omnes Omnibus: I’ll keep it in mind for when I have more time for pleasure reading. I find myself spending a lot of time reading (and rereading) the same books my toddler is enjoying. Thanks for the rec!
Villago Delenda Est
If you have not read HHhH I strongly encourage you to do so. You will not regret the time spent, it’s a page turner. Even though you know how it ends (like Titanic) the journey is fascinating.
What about John Le Carre’s novels do they qualify?
Pretty much everything written by the sardonic Pynchon, no?
And John Fowles, who even interrupts his novels to explain the era he’s writing about
Yep. Great mention! I think that Flashman is meant to puncture the idea of the glory of the British Empire.
I finally read this novel a few years ago. I wanted to read some of the fiction that may have inspired stuff like the Harry Potter novels. Pretty good stuff.
Bhisham Sahani’s book on India’s partition called Tamas based on many incidents that actually happened during that tragic time is an example.
There was also a mini-series based on the novel produced by Doordarshan (India’s version of the BBC) and directed by Shyam Benegal which was a masterpiece. I don’t think it could be made in today’s India.
I don’t think Byatt’s Possession has quite enough history to count, but it seems to somehow fit . . . at least partially and from what I understand of the question.
A couple of people have mentioned Macdonald Fraser’s Flashman, I think the Flashman idea reached it’s greatest twist in Flashman and the Tiger, when instead of being involved in real events, Charge of the Light Brigade, the Indian Mutiny etc, not at all brave Sir Harry finds himself involved in the Sherlock Holmes story “The adventure of the empty house” It’s a hoot.
For me Macdonald Frasers’ funniest book is “The Pyrates” where he mixes Flashman style footnotes and a real world setting with every pirate cliche ever invented, it makes me laugh out loud every time I read it
Oh, I just finished a book that fits my understanding of your question perfectly: When we cease to understand the world, by Benjamin Labatut. It’s mostly about the dawn of quantum physics — fictionalized vignettes with Heisenberg, Schroedinger, Schwarzchild (who wrote a letter from the WW1 trenches detailing his solution to the equations of general relativity — the mathematics of black holes — to Einstein, but died before receiving Einstein’s enthusiastic reply), with a side-trip through Grothendieck, who brought a bit of mathematics from the 22nd Century into the 20th before eschewing mathematics and becoming a hermit.
The Guardian, in its review, characterized it as “a nonfiction novel”.
I think Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War qualifies. Thucydides lays out his method (what he thinks history is) and consciously writes for the future. The way he inserts his own view, of politics and the purpose of history, in speeches, belies his objectivity such that the work can be seen as one of fiction.
@Steeplejack: I answered your question about khwaja, when the thread was dead yesterday.
That reminds me of Clifford Irving’s Autobiography of Howard Hughes – he wouldn’t have gotten in so much trouble if he had published it as fiction. ;-)
Having watched myself portrayed by an actor in “Valley of the Boom”, I can vouch for how interpretation can make an entire alternative history.
Also the whole genre of self-serving “I was there” memoirs by personages famous and obscure.
ETA: Cf. the spate of books coming out of the Trump administration. Although most of those are “Yes, I was there, but it wasn’t my fault!”
Would The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara fit your category? The summer after Trump was elected, my husband and I took the kids to Gettysburg, Antietam and Harper’s Ferry. I read the book right before we left. Very powerful with the combination of then seeing the place.
@scav: In that a lot of the narrative is driven by many of the relationships that can revolve around constructing a biography, who gets to control them, how the elements of biography are controlled — both on the part of the biographers and the biographees.
Loved that book!
Thanks. I still have that tab open; I’ll check back on it.
This reminds me of the film starring Dustin Hoffman, Little Big Man, a revisionist Western which deals with Custer and which also urges the viewer to rethink American history.
@Brachiator: The snake eye. . .
I may be completely missing the point, but the book that comes to mind for me is Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner. A retired, disabled university professor works at writing about his grandmother’s life in Western mining camps in the late 1800s. I say “works at” because I love how Stegner shows the process of research and writing, how it bumps along and circles back on itself endlessly. And how he melds past and present with both fact and speculation.
The Hoffman character is great.
“The Human Beings…”
I need to watch that again. Thanks.
@martha: If you haven’t read William Maxwell’s terrific book Ancestors, give it a try. Very similar. Gorgeous book.
Heart of Darkness certainly used a fictional narrative to depict historical events of which the author had first hand experience. Amongst many things Conrad’s imperial horror story certainly put the boot into the vicious hypocricies of colonialism
@BGinCHI: oh excellent, will do.
@Brachiator: I was thinking about Little Big Man also
J R in WV
That sounds pretty interesting by itself, right there!
@Mousebumples: dead thread, but i was going to bring her up. the sunne in splendour was a great read. falls the shadow was incredible.
@Omnes Omnibus: SUCH a good book.
J R in WV
I’m a big SciFi fan. Eric Flint, a former union organizer, has written (with many other authors) a series of historical fiction novels based upon the transplacement of a fictional modern northern WV mining town into northern Germany of 1632. The introduction of technologies and philosophies from the 20th century transforms Europe over the huge series of novels.
Then other authors transfer other modern settings into other historical locales, a huge cruise ship arrives in pre-Roman southern Europe, while Alexander the Great is working in Southern Asia.
Not as literary as many other things suggested, yet interesting historical research combined with the effects of modern thought on the Pope, Galileo, Cardinal Richelieu, etc, etc. I enjoy all of the books, although some of the associate authors aren’t as good as Mr Flint.
i wonder if schnabel’s film, basquiat, starring jeffery wright, qualifies.
@J R in WV: sounds like a riff off of mark twain’s a connecticut yankee in king arthur’s court.
The Sotweed Factor by John Barth. It inserts fictional characters into a time period and place, 17th century Maryland and Virginia, uses the names of real people, Captain John Smith, e.g., while peeling the varnish of heroism off them, with occasional yucks for the reader. If I remember correctly, Barth was an history professor at a university in Maryland at the time and was, perhaps, trying to bring the folks down from their FFV and FFMd by poking fun at their ancestors.
Late to the party but adding
@Chetan Murthy: Tim Powers’ Declare is a great example, and so is his book about Keats, Byron, Dr. Polidori etc., The Stress of Her Regard. I would also mention a book by the great fantasy writer Hope Mirrlees, A Fly in Amber: Being an Extravagant Biography of the Romantic Antiquary Sir Robert Bruce Cotton — it’s history, not fiction, but it consists of an endless series of digressions circling round and round and is incredibly learned and readable. And I almost forgot, Emma Bull’s Territory — a fantasy that takes on the OK Corral from a feminist perspective — a wonderful book.
Villago Delenda Est
What do “FFV” and “FFMd” mean?
@Steeplejack: My guess:
Fight For Virginia
Fight For Maryland
So what do those mean, in context? I’m not seeing anything relevant on Wikipedia.
@eddie blake: eddie they’re known as the 1632 books and afaik they’ve got about 20 books in the series. Flint has written other stories with the same dues ex machina… the idea is that there are some aluens out there with dubious thics that throw the odd spanner into the dimension of time. Some of the stories very in quality but most are enjoyable escapism.
Would hazard the guesses First Families of Virginia and First Families of Maryland.
@Tehanu: Thanks for these!!
@piratedan: i was a big fan of bruce sterling and william gibson’s the difference engine. i like it when time goes all wibbly-wobbly and whimey.
that series sounds interesting. i’ll have to check it out.
Thanks. That makes more sense.
AM in NC
@Steeplejack: I’m with you and Benw. I love the Aubrey-Maturin series, but I couldn’t even make it all the way through Wolf Hall. Mantel’s prose is just a little too florid for me.
AM in NC
@PJ: That was the first thing that came to my mind as well. What a good novel.
@tomtofa: Damn, you go there first!
I never comment but this question excited me!
• Tom Stoppard’s play Arcadia. It switches back and forth in time, and you see what people in the present think they know about the past . . . and what evidence never made it to them.
• Sarah Polley’s The Stories We Tell documentary. It’s autobiographical, but it also gets at the question of what we know and how we know it. I use it in my history methods class.
• I always want to recommend Francis Spufford’s Red Plenty because it is quite simply the best historical novel I have ever read, but it doesn’t really get at the themes you’re looking for. But you should read it anyway because it’s great!
The play Copenhagen by Michael Frayn works with this – how we can know what we know about history, how different people remember and interpret and report the same event. It plays with Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle a lot with this, since its three characters are Heisenberg, Niels Bohr, and Margareta Bohr, thinking back to a visit during WW2 when everyone was thinking about if atomic bombs were possible to make. They were, but Heisenberg hadn’t gotten there. Why? What did they talk about? What did he want from Bohr?
(And, while I’m thinking of theater, who lives, who dies, who tells your stooooooooryyyyyy……)
@Lurking historian: Great list!
The Sarah Polley stuff I might use. That’s a great catch.
Westerns are really big into looking at the mix of history, myth, & memory. Maybe because so many of the real westerners involved – Buffalo Bill, Masterson, Earp – went into show biz, or just because it was easy to drop medieval type myths into the big, open country.
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is, of course the most direct at this, but many, many, others get into it.
I love Mantel and O’Brian both, (I particularly liked her French Revolution novel, A Place of Greater Safety), but there’s no way I wouldn’t consider O’Brian’s works *the* seminal historical fiction series of the 20th century.