Can Fiction Be Trusted to Tell the Truth?

In Discussion by Edward Nawotka

By Edward Nawotka

In today’s lead story, José Rodrigues dos Santos discusses the complicated relationship between truth and fiction, in both journalism and novels. He argues in favor of using “the best tool available” to get closest to the truth. His new novel, The Einstein Enigma, imagines the discovery of a heretofore unknown manuscript by Albert Einstein, titled simply, Die Gottesformel: The God Formula, which in turn leads to a global conspiracy in the present day. The book follows in the tradition established by historical thriller writers, from Umberto Eco to Dan Brown.

This manipulation of history and historical figures — such as Einstein, which lends idea in the book a distinct credibility — offers a means of posing and investigating ideas. Rather than “historical fiction,” this is “speculative fiction.” It’s also entertaining and provocative. The question is: to what extent can such books be trusted to tell the truth? They are, after all, the imaginative interpretation of one writer. Is history, as written in books, itself all that different? Historical “fact” is itself always shifting, as new materials emerge and each new generation of historians offer their own take on the record.

Let us know what you think in the comments.

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.