Quotes on history and historical fiction


“I think that all of us who write about the past feel a deep and haunting connection with it. Socrates said that all knowledge is possessed by the soul and it’s just a matter of remembering it. I believe that to be true.” — Karen Essex


“History tells us what people do; historical fiction helps us imagine how they felt.” —Guy Vanderhaeghe, as quoted in “A Good Guy,” Quill & Quire, Sept. 2011


“The future is the past, returning through another gate.” —from a poem by Victoria Chang


“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” —William Faulkner


“Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn’t.” — Mark Twain


“In biographies you can make things up. In novels you are obliged to tell the truth.” —Peter Ackroyd


“History is always changing behind us, and the past changes a little every time we retell it.” —Hilary Mantel


“The past is another country, another culture, with perceived realities very different to our own.” —Mary Sharratt, in an interview.


“History is … a fiction; historical novels are simply more honest with the reader about their fictionality, and therefore (possibly) better history.” — from “In Search of the Historical Novel” by Neil Hargraves (Solander 18, November 2015)


“… the historical novel has been one of the sites where women writers have had the most freedom to examine masculinity as a social and cultural construct.” — Diana Wallace, The Woman’s Historical Novel, British Women Writers, 1900-2000)