This essay examines the role of fact and the injunction of fidelity to it in fiction about violent historical events. Taking as its starting point Jonathan Safran Foer's 2002 novel, Everything Is Illuminated (set in the wake of the Holocaust), and his 2005 novel, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (set in New York City after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001), it examines the dictate that fiction about historical violence must perforce be true to the facts. This dictate aligns fidelity with ethics and sets as its stakes the dismaying implications of blurring the distinction between perpetrator and victim. Fidelity to the facts thus combines the juridical with the factual and renders fiction answerable to history. With recourse to Alain Badiou's concept of fidelity, the author argues for an approach to fidelity in fiction that attends to the truths that fidelity produces, not merely those that it reflects. Viewed thus, Foer's novels trace multiple trajectories of fidelity toward and away from history and offer useful guidelines for fiction as a site of ethical engagement with violence in the twenty-first century.
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Naomi Mandel; Fact, Fiction, Fidelity in the Novels of Jonathan Safran Foer. Novel 1 August 2012; 45 (2): 238–256. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00295132-1573958
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