Roman à clef  

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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.

Roman à clef or roman à clé, French for novel with a key, is a novel about real life, overlaid with a façade of fiction. The fictitious names in the novel represent real people, and the "key" is the relationship between the nonfiction and the fiction. This "key" may be produced separately by the author, or implied through the use of epigraphs or other literary techniques.

Created by Madeleine de Scudery in the 17th century to provide a forum for her thinly veiled fiction featuring political and public figures, roman à clef has since been used by writers as diverse as George Orwell, Victor Hugo, Phillip K. Dick, and Bret Easton Ellis.

The reasons an author might choose the roman à clef format include satire; writing about controversial topics and/or reporting inside information on scandals without giving rise to charges of libel; the opportunity to turn the tale the way the author would like it to have gone; the opportunity to portray personal, autobiographical experiences without having to expose the author as the subject; avoiding self-incrimination or incrimination of others that could be used as evidence in civil, criminal, or disciplinary proceedings; and the settling of scores.

Biographically inspired works have also appeared in other literary genres and art forms, notably the film à clef.

Contents

Notable romans à clef

Prose

Verse, drama, and film

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Roman à clef" 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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