Views & Reviews Between the Lines

Authentic fiction

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e6185 (Published 13 September 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e6185
  1. Theodore Dalrymple, writer and retired doctor

How realistic does a work of literature have to be before it is a work of realism? Do the events it relates have to be symbolic, representative, or emblematic of some wider social reality, or is it enough that unique events, for example, those of a love or murder story, should be depicted with a degree of verisimilitude?

These questions came to mind as I read the blurb on the cover of the US edition of Joan Fleming’s novel Kill or Cure, published in 1968: “The inside glimpse of a doctor’s life is quite authentic, since the author knows this background from personal experience.” Later we learn that Joan Fleming (1908-1980), author of 33 novels, “lives with her husband, a …

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