A Word from the Editor
This summer issue is one long essay. I realized that I needed to add a review of my own to one of our issues and had been wondering in which direction to take it. Should I describe how I use Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan in my Freshman Seminar? Would I write something about the new brand of fictionalized fait divers? It was the latter that won out, especially since I had read Ivan Jablonka’s prize-winning Laëtitia ou la fin des hommes and could not fathom what made it a novel. I had several works in mind. I had very much enjoyed Philippe Jaeneda’s La petite femelle (Juillard, 2015) about Pauline Dubuisson’s murder of her lover in November 1953. I wrote a whole section on it, but the more I read about the fait divers and literature, the more conventional it came to seem. Emmanuel Carrère would be featured as a matter of course. In the end, I also included Laurent Binet’s HHhH, even though it isn’t French history, because so much of it involves the author’s duty to respect the facts. Historical fiction should be true to what is demonstrable and not be “based on real events.” Meanwhile, authors were inserting themselves into the story of the fait divers directly: present at the trial, speaking with those involved in the case. Were they reliable narrators? Emmanuel Carrère had a personal quest; Ivan Jablonka tells us he wished to approach the fait divers through an historical and sociological lens, yet his book is also an emotional homage to the eighteen-year-old victim of an horrendous murder. As an historian, I felt I needed to take a closer look at this hybrid genre, and figure out where I stand on it.
University at Buffalo, SUNY