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Roman à clef


Roman à clef

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

Roman à clef (French pronunciation: ​, Anglicized as [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 Victor Hugo, Phillip K. Dick, Bret Easton Ellis, Naguib Mahfouz, 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.


  • Notable examples 1
    • Prose 1.1
    • Verse, drama, and film 1.2
  • See also 2
  • Notes 3
  • References 4

Notable examples


Verse, drama, and film

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ "The Continuum Encyclopedia of American Literature" By Steven R. Serafin, Alfred Bendixen, Continuum International Publishing Group, 2005, ISBN 0-8264-1777-9, ISBN 978-0-8264-1777-0, pg. 525
  3. ^ "Cambridge paperback guide to literature in English" by Ian Ousby, Cambridge University Press, 1996
  4. ^ a b The Modernist roman à clef and Cultural Secrets, or I Know That You Know That I Know That You Know" by M. Boyde, University of Wollongong, 2009
  5. ^ 1969 National Book Awards
  6. ^ So I Don't Write About Heroes: An Interview with Philip K. Dick Uwe Anton, Werner Fuchs, Frank C. Bertrand, SF EYE #14, Spring 1996, pp. 37-46
  7. ^
  8. ^ Dowd, Maureen (11 October 2011). "Prospero’s Tempestuous Family". The New York Times.


  • Amos, William (1985) The Originals: Who's Really Who in Fiction. London: Cape ISBN 0-7221-1069-3
  • Busby, Brian (2003) Character Parts: Who's Really Who in CanLit. Toronto: Knopf Canada ISBN 0-676-97579-8
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