History in Fiction or Fiction in History: Enchi Fumiko’s Namamiko Monogatari as Historical Novel


While Hayden White asserts that historical discourses mirror literary writing, he also recognizes the value of narrativity in historical representations of reality. Many authors of historical discourses interpret and report their materials in narrative form, in the process of which the representation is governed by certain criteria of truth but also some degree of imagination. White’s theorizations relevantly underlie the reason why Enchi Fumiko’s novel Namamiko Monogatari (A Tale of False Fortunes) has been regarded by some critics as a historical novel. Since the novel concerns the conflation of historically authentic elements and fictitiously created texts, the difficulty in distinguishing fictitious accounts from existing historical documents not only constructs an equivocal narrator but also reveals that narrative history and fiction are rhetorically intertwined. Different from existing literary criticisms, I contend that from a metanarrative perspective, the novel metanarratively exposes the conventions of historical novels and discloses the fictionality of the literary work. The metafictional effects are achieved by the narrator-figure through her narrative strategies of recounting the embedded story, thereby establishing her authority but simultaneously highlighting her status of unreliability. The second technique is the intertextual references to authoritative sources of a chronicle, classic texts, and other historical works. I argue that the prologue-narrator should be perceived as a fictional character who resembles the historical author for metanarrative effects, and the narrator plays a pivotal role in her way of recounting the purportedly ancient manuscript which is rendered as “true” history after her interpretation.

Author Information
Ka Yan Lam, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Paper Information
Conference: LibrAsia2017
Stream: Literature - Asian Literature

This paper is part of the LibrAsia2017 Conference Proceedings (View)
Full Paper
View / Download the full paper in a new tab/window

Comments & Feedback

Place a comment using your LinkedIn profile


Share on activity feed

Powered by WP LinkPress

Share this Research

Posted by James Alexander Gordon