[Respuesta al mensaje nº 39]
I think the
historical novel, well done (of course) has much to add to
historical studies insofar as it can create full and palpable
situations where the extant archival documents are often fuill
of gaps, vaguely worded (with official jargons of one sort or
another), and necessarily leave out the kind of motivations no one
was really thinking of in the Middle Ages or Renaissance. Controlled
by a strong sense of relativity and historical accuracy, the
historical novel offers students—and the rest of us—new insights,
which we can play around with in our minds—and in seminar
This struggle to
achieve a sense of deep probability is admirable.
It means we are not going to have a superficial and distortive
romance or costume drama that merely plays out contemporary issues
in a more or less historical period setting.
This is certainly
what constituted historiography as a branch of rhetoric until the
eighteenth century, for the most part, and it can be done again,
provided that there are some controls to keep within the range of
the probable for the period in question. The
novel does not substitute for serious academic study, but it can
supplement it with speculation and imaginative concreteness.
Fiction is fiction. Again
this is a rhetorical posture, a situation set up not so much to
reproduce what actually happened, but to expose from a new angle
what we wish we knew was going on in the past.
This is another form of “philosophical myth” or
“parable”—or even a midrash (to use
a rabbinical term), to allow the modern writer to strip away the
layers of difference between our concerns about reality from those
which were expressed—and expressable—in
the past. As long as
readers do not confuse the fiction with the reality, the romance
with the history, there is nothing wrong—and a lot to be gained
from an epistemological perspective.
This is a different
matter, although it might be considered also to be involved with the
modern genre of novel and the use of the language of the conquerors;
yet on the other hand, it is a way of forcing the genre to embrace
the conceptual frames and the loinguistic
peculiarities of the “native” or “indigenous” conquered
people, who in this way regain possession of a historical voice and
express themselves in the created terms of their own restored
position in the imagination.
Does one have to
distribute praise and blame at all?
Surely, the novel allows for—if not demands—aa
sense of objectivity, to the extent that each side in the earlier
conflict are allowed the integrity of their own minds and hearts,
and in this way the modern versions are recreated for both, so that
a new transcendent reality is created.
The Spanish conquistadores cease being demonized and the
Indians are no longer infantilized or made primitive avatars.
Both peoples confront one another in the fullness of their
humanity, with winners and losers in the struggle seen as products
of military, political and material conditions, not aspects of their
worth as people.
writer does not necessarily falsify history any more than the
historian who takes the dynamic of real events and analyses them
into categories for discussion.
I would like to see a dialectic cooperation between the
writer of fiction and the author of scholarly history, whether they
are the same person or distinct individuals.