Milan Kundera's Role Of Historiography And Historical Novel

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Historiographical account and historical novel share two main principles: First, in both genres narrative is the means of communication and second they discuss the bygone events. But narrative and fictional elements play a different role in historiography and historical novel. The novelist invents events and characters and intermingle them with the past in order to communicate the desired effects. Contrary to this, the historian does not create additions in theory or in records. Means the historian’s task is less mimetic and the novelist can create additions to the record. Milan Kundera illustrates the differences between the historian and novelist in the Art of the Novel:
A historian tells you about events that have taken place. … A novel examines not reality but existence. And existence is not what has occurred, existence is a realm of human possibilities, … Novelists draw up the map of existence by discovering this or that human possibilities. If a writer considers a historical situation a fresh and revealing possibility of human world, he will want to describe it as it is. Still fidelity to historical reality is a secondary matter as regards the value of the novel. The novelist is
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The historiographer’s task is to represent a historical series of arguments according to his point of view. The novelist’s task is not limited to, constructing his narrative on the basis of the past documents. For that reason, Collingwood emphasised on the historiographer’s “double task” belittling the novelist’s work. On the other hand, the historical fiction should not be counted as subordinate to historiography. Realist historical fiction resembles two tasks of historiographer. Similar to the historian, novelist’s first step is to impose a narrative form against the historical record; secondly, he has to develop a storyline which conforms to the established historical

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