Historical novels are always open to the Johnsonian reproach that what is historical in them is not novel and what is novel in them is not historical. They are neither fully works of the imagination nor yet those of scholarship. The detail if accurate may be criticized as pedantic and if inaccurate as detracting from verisimilitude. Severe critics of the genre would say that it is intrinsically hybrid, in the way that the melons and marrows in my vegetable patch once cross-fertilized and produced eye-catching hybrids that were, however, edible neither as fruit nor vegetable. Yet the historical novel remains popular, and often deservedly so.

This year’s Goncourt Prize for a first novel has gone to an example of the genre titled De nos frères blessés (Of Our Wounded Brothers) by Joseph Andras (a pseudonym).


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