Hilary Mantel's ecstatically-received, Booker-winning Wolf Hall [...] follows the rising fortunes of Thomas Cromwell, counselor to Henry VIII and one of the chief architects of the English Reformation, from the downfall of his patron Cardinal Wolsey to that of his enemy Sir Thomas More. It's the kind of historical novel I tend to view with distrust, which tries to make stories out of recorded events and characters out of real people. I've written before about my unease with works that try to fictionalize reality. A person's life, be it ever so important and full of event, is not a story, with structure, themes, and most importantly, a point, and to reduce it to one is to diminish it, and that person, in some ineffable but very real way. And whereas works like The Other Boleyn Girl or the television series The Tudors reshape the events of history into a genre that wears its unreality on its sleeve--respectively, a romantic melodrama and a trash soap opera--and thus defuse that inevitable diminishing, Wolf Hall is told with a straight face, as a naturalistic novel that purports not only to describe events as they were but to describe Cromwell as he was. It thus borrows significance from history even as it embroiders it and twists it into a shape that suits Mantel's purposes.
It's a difficulty that Mantel herself seems aware of. Some way into the novel, Cromwell travels to France with Henry's entourage, and has an audience with the French king, Francis I. As the two discuss their hopes for more friendly relations between their countries, Francis breezily observes "Who now remembers Agincourt?"
"[Cromwell] almost laughs. 'It is true,' he says. 'A generation or two, or three... four... and these things are nothing.'"
It's a startling exchange, and it takes a few moments to realize just why it's startling--because the event that will make Agincourt immortal won't happen for nearly 70 years, when a playwright trying to curry favor with a queen not yet born will write a piece of hagiography about her ancestor, and tie Agincourt to a piece of writing so sublime that it will come to epitomize valor, leadership, and courage on the field of battle. To put it another way, very few of us remember Agincourt as it was, or the significance that Cromwell and Francis I attach to it, but very many of us remember the spin Shakespeare put on it in a piece of historical fiction. The story, so long as it's sufficiently well told, is much more powerful than the fact, something that Cromwell is very much aware of, seeing as much of his service to Henry involves passing laws and proclamations that change the nature of reality and rewrite the past, turning a legal wife into a mistress, a legitimate daughter into a bastard, a pope into a bishop and a king into the head of the church. "It's the living that turn and chase the dead," Cromwell thinks at the end of the novel. "The long bones and skulls are tumbled from their shrouds, and words like stones thrust into their rattling mouths: we edit their writings, we rewrite their lives."
Ср. недавний пост roman_shmarakovа, с которым я не согласен почти в той же... нет, в большей степени, чем согласен.