Tag Archives: Anthony Powell

Truth and fiction

All writers know that the truth is in the fiction. That’s where the spiritual barometer gives its reading.

Martin Amis, Experience (2000)

People think because a novel’s invented, it isn’t true. Exactly the reverse is the case. Because a novel’s invented, it is true. Biography and memoirs can never be wholly true, since they can’t include every conceivable circumstance of what happened. The novel can do that. The novelist himself lays it down. His decision is binding. The biographer, even at his highest and best, can be only tentative, empirical. The autobiographer, for his part, is imprisoned in his own egotism. He must be suspect. In contrast with the other two, the novelist is a god, creating his man, making him breathe and walk. The man, created in his own image, provides information about the god. In a sense  you know more about Balzac and Dickens from their novels, than Rousseau and Casanova from their Confessions. Anthony Powell, Hearing Secret Harmonies (1975), ch. 3.

 

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