On Histories and Stories
by A S Byatt
In recent years many novelists have become increasingly interested in history as fiction and fiction as history. In her powerful opening essays - ... Show synopsis In recent years many novelists have become increasingly interested in history as fiction and fiction as history. In her powerful opening essays - "Father," "Forefathers" and "Ancestors" - A.S. Byatt considers the renaissance of the historical novel. She discusses particularly the novel of wartime experience; the surprising variety of distant pasts that British writers have invented; and the new "Darwinian novel," stimulated in part by the discovery of DNA. These afford new readings of writers from Elizabeth Bowen and Henry Greene to Anthony Burgess, William Golding and Muriel Spark, and other contemporary authors, including Penelope Fitzgerald, Julian Barnes, Martin Amis, John Fuller, Hilary Mantel and Pat Barker. There is a fascinating essay on Byatt's own translation of historical fact into fiction in the two novellas of Angels and Insects, while elsewhere she explores the recent European revival of interest in myth, folktale and fairytale. Finally, two short pieces look in detail at the perennial appeal of particular motifs: The Arabian Nights "the greatest story ever told," and a cluster of tales of ice, snow and glass from "Snow White" and "The Snow Queen" to the mysterious, "stony" women of Shakespeare and George Eliot. Vivid, profound and full of original insights, "Histories and Stories" redraws the boundaries of fiction today.