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Historical Fiction
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Historical Fiction anyone? Yes, but is it Art?

The debate on historical accuracy in novels

Sometimes it seems one can hardly go on the internet without encountering some passionate debate or forum in which everyone agonizes endlessly over whether historical fiction should be factual, about whether novelists should strive for accuracy, or whether straying from the known facts at any moment is at all good for any of us.

In an age when, some might argue, the genre is in danger of becoming little more than a re-packaging of biographical information in the 1st person, here is one writer's humble view on the subject - the main thrust of which is that historical fiction (be it good bad or indifferent) is actually LITERATURE; that literature is art; and that artists ... well, they're a funny lot, aren't they! They just don't seem to know when to stick to the rules!

A picture is worth a thousand words, they say, so here goes:
black and white picture of bomb site, ruined buidings
modern art work by Picasso
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THIS IS HISTORY (Bombing of Guernica 1937)
THIS IS ART (Guernica by Picasso)

THIS IS HISTORY (quite interesting, really)
book cover - subject of biblical studies, mostly text
THIS IS ART (Handel's Messiah - 'nuff said?)
sheet music

THIS IS HISTORY (French Revolution 1789)
old illustration of French revolution
THIS IS ART (a spot of Dickens 1859)
books stacked, with Dickens on top - Tale of Two Cities
So, get the idea? No footnotes, no apologies, no agonising and wringing of hands, no looking over shoulders in case some academic celebrity or the other might be wagging their fingers. Let's just do historical fiction instead, shall we?
Yes, But is it Art?
You bet.

Robert Stephen Parry 2011