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Historical correctness and historical fiction: a response
In this article the relationship between history and fiction is examined in response to the historian, Fransjohan Pretorius’s criticism of recent Afrikaans fiction about the Anglo-Boer War in Tydskrif vir Letterkunde 52.2 (2015). The intricate relationship between history and fiction is examined by pointing, on the one hand to the problematic of the relationship between history and the past and on the one hand, to the difference between fiction and history. The function of aesthetic illusion, verisimilitude and conceptions of reference is investigated theoretically before turning to the specific novels that Pretorius discusses. The article shows that historical fiction cannot be restricted to novelized versions of accepted history, but that historical fiction also reminds the reader that the past is always culturally mediated and that the primary aim of novels is not to represent the past but to examine aspects of human existence. A comparison between fiction and history can therefore not be used as a norm to assess novels.
Keywords: aesthetic illusion, historical fiction, history fiction, verisimilitude.