Autobiographical novel  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

An autobiographical novel is a novel based on the life of the author. The literary technique is distinguished from an autobiography or memoir by the stipulation of being fiction. Names and locations are often changed and events are recreated to make them more dramatic but the story still bears a close resemblance to that of the author.

While the events of the author's life are recounted, there is no pretense of neutrality or even exact truth. Events may be reported the way the author wishes they had been with enemies more clearly loathsome and triumphs more complete than perhaps they actually were.

Because writers somewhat draw on their own experiences in most of their work, the term autobiographical novel is difficult to define. Novels that portray settings and/or situations with which the author is familiar are not necessarily autobiographical. Neither are novels that include aspects drawn from the author’s life as minor plot details. To be considered an autobiographical by most standards, there must be a protagonist modeled after the author and a central plotline that mirrors events in his or her life.

Novels that do not fully meet these requirements or are further distanced from true events are sometimes called semi-autobiographical novels.

Many first novels, as well as novels about intense, private experiences such as war, family conflict or sex, are written as autobiographical novels.

Some works openly refer to themselves as 'nonfiction novels.' The definition of such works remains vague. The term was first widely used in reference to the non-autobiographical 'In Cold Blood' by Truman Capote but has since become associated with a range of works drawing openly from autobiography. A central focus of the non-fiction novel is the development of plot through the means of fictional narrative styles. The emphasis is on the creation of a work that is essentially true, often in the context of an investigation into values or some other aspect of reality. The books Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig and The Tao of Muhammad Ali by Davis Miller open with statements admitting to some fictionalising of events but state they are true 'in essence.'

Semi-autobiographical novel

Also known as a thinly veiled memoir, a semi-autobiographical novel draws heavily on the experiences of the author's own life for its plot. Authors may opt to write a semi-autobiographical novel rather than a true memoir for a variety of reasons: to protect the privacy of their family, friends, and loved ones; to achieve emotional distance from the subject; or for artistic reasons, such as simplification of plot lines, themes, and other details.

Notable autobiographical novels

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Autobiographical novel" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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