montagnarde1793: (République française)

So I just read this article which I have several problems with. Don't get me wrong; I see where the author is coming from. He's pointing out the difference between mistakes and intentional changes to the historical record in history. This is an important distinction to make. However, I must differ with his idea that this is the fundamental distinction to be made in the matter of historical accuracy in historical fiction. If fiction existed in a vacuum then yes, any intentional changes made by novelists (or playwrights, or filmmakers, or what have you) in the service of their storytelling would be fine. (We're assuming, for the sake of argument, that said changes actually improve the story, though we know well that they often do the opposite.)

I've said it before, I know, and doubtless the author of this piece would accuse me of being one of those fussy historians who think "the facts are the story" - I, of course, would say that the facts are often the story, but not always - but I think the spinner of historical fictions has a duty both to the people, events, ideas even that s/he writes about and to his or her audience. As such, a minor mistake such as a miscount of priests, unless it happens so often that it's clear the author either did no research and thus does not respect his or her readers, matters much less to me than a deliberate historical manipulation. Turning a real historical figure into the opposite of what they were - which, by the way, happens much more often for political than for entertainment reasons - shows a level of disrespect to the past and to one's audience that I for one cannot abide.

Shakespeare (whoever he was), as one commenter points out, is not a good role model in this case. I know little enough about Richard III, other than he was a king and that for this alone he has earned from me a certain base level of contempt, and that Shakespeare wants me to despise him, because the Tudors want me to despise him. I understand in terms of Shakespeare's own historical context, why he portrayed Richard, or really any of the characters in his history plays the way he did. That doesn't mean because Shakespeare did it, the best literary decisions are made based on political expediency. Lying to blacken or whitewash a historical figure tends to make less interesting reading/viewing in any case. History, apart from its own merits, tends to provide one with nuanced characters, and in that sense, yes the story *is* in the facts.

Does this mean that a novel needs to get bogged down in a bunch of little facts? That I've sinned against history if I don't quote a speech in full or describe in detail all the disgusting things lying in the street every time someone goes outside? Of course not. But if I rearrange that speech so that it says the opposite of what the original conveyed or if I claim that the streets were squeaky clean in centuries past? Well, then I've done both history and my readers a disservice.

Which brings me to what I think is the real point to be made about historical accuracy: not mistakes vs. intentional changes, but the letter vs. the spirit.

If I need to change the day on which some minor event happened for the purposes of my plot, I've violated the letter of historical accuracy; if I deliberately misrepresent the character and/or opinions of a historical figure, I've transgressed against the spirit. To me, that's an important component of historical accuracy. Doing your research matters. The author of this article is right about that. But that's not all there is to it.

(I should note, by the way, that saying "I'm writing a historical AU" changes the situation somewhat. But not entirely. An AU is asking "what if" and there are only so many what ifs a story can take and retain credibility. If you have more than one, they should probably be a result of one another. In other words, you can either start from the premise that there were unicorns in 18th century France or that France won the Seven Years War or that France won the Seven Years War because of the unicorns. Don't ask, "what if there were unicorns in 18th century France" and "what if France won the Seven Years War" if those two questions are unrelated. And certainly keep scrupulously within the realm of historical accuracy for other unrelated details, or why the hell are you writing an AU and not just a fantasy novel?)

(I should also note that I'm not among those who thinks that history should be used as pure entertainment or that things that are "just for entertainment" should be beyond the reach of critique, but if you're going to write some such historically inaccurate work would it kill you to put a disclaimer on it instead of proclaiming what you've written to be history or even historical fiction in the traditional sense?)

...And after all that, I still fine myself agreeing to a large extent with this commenter (though I would put in that I don't think it necessarily has to be that way).

Actually though, this whole post was just an excuse to reply to this comment. While it's nice to know we're not the only ones who have a problem with Mantel's misogyny, and I obviously agree that manipulating history to make "some wicked, wicked woman," in the commenter's words the root cause of every historical event (especially the negative ones) is helpful for nothing, least of all for making for a more interesting plot... "humane yet corrupt indulgence" vs. "idealistic but ruthless virtue"? Seriously? Did this person get his or her history for Wajda? Because, honestly, I don't think setting up these sorts of dichotomies is a much more evolved explanation than "it was all the fault of those evil wimmens." Because, I don't know about you, but if I can't think of any time when Robespierre was corrupt, I can certainly think of many times when he was humane and it could be argued that there were times he was even indulgent. Likewise, there are certainly times when Danton can be argued to have been idealistic, ruthless, and even virtuous, depending on how you read his actions. But Supreme Being forbid a novelist should explore these nuances and abandon a perfectly good opportunity to regale us with the dangers of virtue and idealism.

In other news, I have my visa now, and it is shiny and amazing. And it also has the nifty feature that if I were to decide I wanted to renew it for another year (not that I'm planning on doing that at the moment) I wouldn't even have to leave France to do it. I love it to death. ♥
montagnarde1793: (citoyen)

I've finally found an article that gets to the very heart of the problem I have with Disney (and through Disney, in a way, with all of popular culture). It's a bit long-winded, but it's a nice change from the usual critiques of Disney's race and gender fail, which while accurate and pertinent, miss the central issue, as I see it. (The article also indirectly addresses the issue of Disney's cold-blooded murder of classics of all genres, since even the most traditional of fairy tales tends to have subversive themes in the original, which Disney takes special care to excise.)

In any case, I'm glad I'm not the only one who sees a problem with the normalization of monarchy and class hierarchy through the cynical peddling of manufactured "innocence".

...In other news, I'm going to pick up my visa tomorrow. Maybe that will finally make it seem real to me that I'm going to be in France all next year. Right now it seems a bit unreal - between nerves and excitement one tends to lose track of concreteness. And yet... there's only a month to go. O_O

montagnarde1793: (Default)
On this page, I write my last confession... just kidding. Seriously, though I ought to write what I normally write to my sister here, as she doesn't answer anyway.

So I will, for lack of any better ideas, quote my last letter to her:

Lucile :

Ce bouquin--celui d'Emile Zola--qu'est-ce que le titre?

This book--the one by Emile Zola--what is the title?

Je trouvais un site sur France ; peut-etre ca t'interesse? :

I found a site on France; perhaps it will interest you?

C'est tres interessant. Je veux regarder <> pour comprendre ce qui se passe dans les banlieues de Paris et des autres ville francaises...

It's very interesting. I want to see "La Haine" now to understand what has been going on in the "suburbs" of Paris and other French cities...

Je te manque beaucoup!

I miss you very much!

Vertu et egalite,


P.-S. : Un excerpt de "Le Bourgeois sans-culotte ou Le spectre du parc Monceau" par Kateb Yacine :

An excerpt from "The Bourgeois Sans-Culotte ou The Specter of Park Monceau" by Kateb Yacine:



Un spectre hante la France, le spectre du parc Monceau, le spectre de Robespierre, l'intrus, le mal-aime, le malfame, l'incontournable.

A specter haunts France, the specter of Park Monceau, the specter of Robespierre, the intruder, the badly-loved, the defamed, the uncontrollable one.

(On entend a nouveau le cri de mort de Robespierre)

(Robespierre's death-cry is heard anew)

Un spectre hante la France. Le spectre de Robespierre frappe a sa porte depuis deux siecles. Il n'a pas eu d'enfance, pas de jeunesse, pas de femme. Sa femme, c'etait la Republique.

A specter haunts France. The specter of Robespierre has knocked at her door for two centuries. He has not had a childhood, nor a youth, nor a wife. His wife, she was the Republic.



Republique, es-tu la?

Republic, are you there?

Entre la Republique : l'actrice qui fut Eleonore.

Enter the Republic: the actrice who was Eleonore.



Quelle Republique? La premiere? Elle est morte d'un coup d'Etat militaire que tu voyais venir en la personne de Bonaparte.

Which Republic? The first? She died from a military coup d'Etat that you saw come in the person of Bonaparte.

Entre Napoleon. Apres un tour de danse avec Eleonore, il quitte la scene, remplace par Petain, puis par de Gaulle.

Enter Napoleon. After a turn of dancing with Eleonore, he quits the scene, replaced by Petain, then by de Gaulle.



La deuxieme Republique? Elle est morte etouffee, entre deux empires. Et la troisieme fut victime, une fois de plus, d'un militaire, le marechal Petain, qui la sacrifia sous la botte nazie.

The second Republic? She died suppressed, between two empires. And the third was the victim, one time more, of a military man, the marshal Petain, who would sacrifice her under the nazi boot.



Republique, es-tu la?

Republic, are you there?



Quelle Republique? La quatrieme? Elle fit ses premiers pas avec un autre (encore un autre) militaire, le general de Gaulle. Il n'hesita pas a la supprimer, pour fonder, a son tour, la cinquieme Republique, nee de la guerre d'Algerie. Ainsi la Republique fut souvent renversee, d'un militaire a l'autre. Mais toujours elle se releve, avec le souvenir de son premier amant : Maximilien Robespierre.

Which Republic? The fourth? She took her first steps with another (yet another) military man, the general de Gaulle. He would not hesitate to suppress her, to found, in his turn, the fifth Republic, born of the war in Algeria. In such ways, the Republic was often overthrown, by one military man or another. But always she would rise again, with the memory of her first lover: Maximilien Robespierre.

Les militaires quittent la scene. Eleonore et Robespierre s'embrassent longuement, puis s'eloignent dans l'ombre.

The military men quit the scene. Eleonore and Robespierre kiss at length, then remove into the shadows.


I bet you've never been the Republic before.

I feel special;)


Salut a tous.......





montagnarde1793: (Default)
I just got back from Paris, France (aka the best place in the world). It was amazing! I really didn't want to leave.

The Conciergerie and the Musee Carnavalet were definitely the highlights:

In the Carnavalet, not only do they have that famous picture of Robespierre (and the one of Camille, and the one of Lucile), but they also had a lock of his hair, a tricolor rosette he wore to the Jacobins right before the Fete de l'Etre Supreme, his briefcase type thing (porte-feuille), and his shaving bowl.

The Conciergerie, apart from being the last place Robespierre was in before he died, had a very nice bust of him and a ladder that had been in my historical persona, Eleonore Duplay's house. (They had written that there was a rumor that he used it to get to his room, but I really don't see why he would have needed it, considering his room was on the ground level.)

Speaking of my historical persona's house, however... It was a bit of a disappointment. They had turned it into a store (whose name I have blocked out), and it didn't even have its courtyard anymore. It really is too bad they closed Le Robespierre. I would have killed to be able to go there.

And again, speaking of death, I also saw the Catacombes, where Robespierre's (along with just about everyone else who was guillotined) remains Yes. I think stacked would describe it. BTW: I will post pictures as soon as I can... not just of that but of everything.

Still on the subject of death, I also saw my historical persona's grave in Pere Lachaise, after some difficulty. It was very nice. The Societe des Etudes Robespierristes fixed it up, with a new plaque, flowers, little trees, tricolor ribbons, and (I suspect) a place on the map--the map only mentions the more "important" figures buried there.

Another interesting thing was the Pantheon. Among other people, Rousseau, Voltaire, and Condorcet are entombed there. It is muchly cool (both literally and figuratively).

On the way to the Pantheon, we saw the Sorbonne and tried to see Louis-le-Grand, but apparently they've built a new wing--or something--because we could only see the courtyard through a window.

All in all, it was the best trip ever, and I hope to be able to go back soon--whatever anyone else says be damned!

montagnarde1793: (Default)

I think I'm depressed. I'm in Southern California, the land of no culture. Whatsoever. The local paper has a Sports Section ten times larger than its World Affairs Section. There is nothing to do here. I can't wait to get back home... and then to France... *sigh* Good sigh, not bad sigh. Hopefully anyway. We may have offers on our house, which we are selling (it's a prerequisite that it get sold for going to France). So if all goes according to plan, we'll leave on the 21 juillet, and come back the 29 juillet. It's cutting it a bit close to August, but if we can't go for Bastille Day, we can at least go to the 210e anniversary of Robespierre's death *sobs*. Okay, I'm better now. *pets image of l'Incorruptible* I guess life's not that bad, (present company not included), I just wish I had more French Revolutionaries by me. And I want a kitten. I think I'll go to a shelter and get a little green-eyed kitten and name it Maximilien Robespierre. Then I can say to people I have a kitten and it's name is Max. Max? That's not very original, they'll say. And I'll say, well, actually, it's Maximilien Robespierre. *awed silence*.

Ha! If only. Oh and just a little something to brighten your day: apparently the House of Representatives has decided that flag-burning (that is, of the US flag), should be made illegal... and the Senate looks likely to follow. Bande des salauds! I better go burn all my American flags whilst I still can! *excuses self to go do that*



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