Roman à clef

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
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, and Bret Easton Ellis.

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]


Verse, drama, and film[edit]

Further information: Film à clef

See also[edit]