Also while I was away, The Quarterly Conversation published my review of Swiss writer Robert Pagani’s The Princess, the King and the Anarchist:
Which is better? An imagined literature which takes a true historical event as its beating heart? Or a richly-detailed but otherwise straightforward account of that same occasion?
Robert Pagani’s The Princess, the King and the Anarchist raises this question in the subtlest and sneakiest of ways, offering itself up as a piece of evidence for the truth of the former. Its claim is based on the idea that every history has an unrecorded element, the part of the moment that can never be precisely known. That element remains hidden in the minds of the witnesses and participants. Historical fiction, by daring to go inside the minds of its characters, can work to uncover this truth, to present certain possibilities, to offer a possible consciousness to what are otherwise facts and chronologies.
This beautiful gem of a book, translated and published by the late Helen Marx in 2009, did not get much attention when it came out and will probably fade away in relative obscurity. That would be very sad. So here is my attempt to give it a little more of the press it deserves.
Click here to read the full review.