Roman à clef

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Key to vol. 2 of Delarivier Manley's, New Atalantis (1709).

Roman à clef or roman à clé (French pronunciation: ​[ʁɔmɑ̃ a kle], Anglicized as /rˌmɒnɒˈkl/[1]), French for novel with a key, is a novel about real life, overlaid with a façade of fiction.[2] The fictitious names in the novel represent real people, and the "key" is the relationship between the nonfiction and the fiction.[3] This "key" may be produced separately by the author, or implied through the use of epigraphs or other literary techniques.[4]

Created by Madeleine de Scudery in the 17th century to provide a forum for her thinly veiled fiction featuring political and public figures,[4] roman à clef has since been used by writers as diverse as George Orwell, Victor Hugo, Phillip K. Dick, Bret Easton Ellis, and Malachi Martin.

The reasons an author might choose the roman à clef format include satire; writing about controversial topics and/or reporting inside information on scandals without giving rise to charges of libel; the opportunity to turn the tale the way the author would like it to have gone; the opportunity to portray personal, autobiographical experiences without having to expose the author as the subject; avoiding self-incrimination or incrimination of others that could be used as evidence in civil, criminal, or disciplinary proceedings; and the settling of scores.

Biographically inspired works have also appeared in other literary genres and art forms, notably the film à clef.[citation needed]

Notable examples[edit]

Prose[edit]

Verse, drama, and film[edit]

Further information: Film à clef

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

References[edit]