An autobiographical novel
is a novel
based on the life of the author. The literary technique
is distinguished from an autobiography
by the stipulation of being fiction. A further distancing from real events is sometimes called a semi-autobiographical novel
. Of course all authors transform the materials of their lives into art, but these novels purport to tell in novel form the author's own story.
Usually, the author and other characters are given different names. While the events of the author's life are recounted, there is no pretense of neutrality or even truth. The life may be reported the way the author wishes it has been, with enemies more clearly loathsome and triumphs more complete than perhaps they were in real life.
Many first novels, as well as novels about intense, private experiences such as war, family conflict, or sex, are written as autobiographical novels.
Novels, such as Huckleberry Finn, which purport to tell the life of the narrator, are not generally considered autobiographical novels.
Notable autobiographical novels
- James Agee[?], A Death in the Family
- Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
- Maya Angelou[?], I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1970) and subsequent books.
- James Baldwin, Go Tell It on the Mountain
- J.G. Ballard, Empire of the Sun[?] is a novel about his boyhood, and Crash, about the sexual turn-on of car crashes, he describes as "an autobiographical novel in the sense that it is about my inner life, my imaginative life".
- Saul Bellow, The Adventures of Augie March
- Charlotte Bronte, Vilette (1853)
- Rita Mae Brown[?], Ruby Fruit Jungle
- Samuel Butler, The Way of All Flesh (1903), published posthumously.
- Truman Capote, The Grass Harp[?]
- Louis Ferdinand Céline, Journey to the End of the Night and subsequent books
- Pat Conroy[?], The Great Santini (1976), about the author's father
- Philip K. Dick, Valis Trilogy
- Charles Dickens, Great Expectations (1861) and David Copperfield (1850) are considered his most autobiographical fiction.
- Marguerite Duras, The Lover (French L'Amant) (1984)
- Will Eisner, To the Heart of the Storm (2000), a graphic novel by the great cartoonist
- Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man[?]
- F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tender is the Night (1934), This Side of Paradise
- Graham Greene, The End of the Affair
- Woody Guthrie, Bound for Glory
- Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms (1929)
- Thomas Hughes[?], Tom Brown's School Days[?] (1857)
- James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916). Joyce carries the story of the protagonist, Stephen Daedalus, forward in his Ulysses.
- Nikos Kazantzakis, Report to Greco
- Jack Kerouac, On the Road
- D.H. Lawrence, Sons and Lovers (1913)
- John le Carré, A Perfect Spy, a spy novel that tells of the author's confidence-man father and its impact on his own life as a spy
- Violette Leduc[?], Therese and Isabelle (2000), a tale of two young girls in love which was delayed in publication 50 years.
- Jack London, John Barleycorn (1913), the tale of a drinker
- Somerset Maugham, Of Human Bondage Maugham said, "'It is not an autobiography, but an autobiographical novel; fact and fiction are inextricably mingled."
- Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer, Tropic of Capricorn, his favorite subject, highly colored memories of his own sex life.
- George Orwell, Keep the Aspidistra Flying, an author's struggles.
- Gordon Parks[?]. The Learning Tree
- Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
- Marcel Proust, À la recherche du temps perdu or A Remembrance of Things Past, a seven-volume novel with the famous opening line: "For a long time I used to go to bed early," which continues some 36 pages later:
- "And once I had recognized the taste of the crumb of madeleine soaked in her decoction of lime flowers which my aunt used to give me (although I did not yet know and must long postpone the discovery of why this memory made me so happy) immediately the old grey house upon the street, where her room was, rose up like the scenery of a theatre".
- Ayn Rand, We, the Living[?]
- Kenneth Rexroth[?], An Autobiographical Novel (1966), The title was suggested by the original publisher to reduce the risk of libel suits.
- Lee Ann Rimes[?], Holiday
- Gertrude Stein, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, a mock autobiography of Stein's secretary and companion, purporting to be Toklas's views of Stein.
- Leo Tolstoy, Childhood (1852), Boyhood (1854), and Youth (1856)
- Mark Twain, Roughing It (1872)
- Elie Wiesel Night, a memoir of Nazi terror
- Thomas Wolfe, Look Homeward, Angel (1929)
- Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse
- Richard Wright, Black Boy (1945)
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