Peter Ackroyd’s London novels represent a distinctive component in his project of composing a literary-historical biography of the city. Understanding London as a multilayered palimpsest of texts, Ackroyd adds to this ongoing process by rewriting the city’s history from new, imaginative perspectives. For this he employs approaches and strategies such as parody, pastiche, genre mixture, metafiction, intertextuality and an incessant mixing of the factual with the fictititious. The aim of this article is to explore the various ways in which he toys with historical reality and blurs the borderline between fiction and biography in The Lambs of London (2004), offering thus an alternative rendering of two unrelated offences connected with late eighteenth and early nineteenth century London literary circles: Mary Lamb’s matricide and William-Henry Ireland’s forgeries of the Shakespeare Papers.
Jim Crace likes to refer to himself as a “landscape writer” and indeed, in each of his eleven novels he has created a distinct yet recognizable imaginary landscape or cityscape. This has led critics to coin the term “Craceland” to describe the idiosyncratic milieux he creates, which, through his remarkably authentic and poetic rendering of geography and topography, appear to be both other and familiar at the same time. In The Pesthouse 2007, the milieu is the devastated America of an imagined future, a country which has deteriorated into a pre-modern and pre-industrial wasteland so hostile to sustainable existence that most of its inhabitants have become refugees travelling eastwards to sail to a new life on another continent. Franklin and Margaret, two such refugees, are leaving their homes not only to flee misery and destitution, but also the trauma and pain occasioned by the loss of their relatives. Using geocriticism as a practice and theoretical point of departure, this article presents and analyses the various ways in which Crace’s novel renders and explores its spaces, landscapes and places, as well as how it links them with the transformation of the protagonists’ psyches and mental worlds.
Hanif Kureishi’s 2014 novel, The Last Word, involves most of the author’s idiosyncratic themes, such as ethnicity, racism, sexual identity, examination of interpersonal relationships and the crucial role of the creative imagination in human life. Its focal concern, however, is to explore the process of writing a literary biography of a living person and the character and dynamics of the relationship between the biographer and his subject - a writer. As such, the novel can be taken as being representative of biographic metafiction, a subcategory of historiographic metafiction, which, following the postmodernist questioning of our ability to know and textually represent historical truth, presents biographic writing critically or even mockingly, rendering its enthusiastic practitioners’ efforts with ironic scepticism. The aim of this article is to present The Last Word as a particular example of biographic metafiction that has all the crucial features of this genre, yet which differs from its predecessors through the complexity and thoroughness of its portrayal of the biographer-biographee relationship.