Talk given at the Authors’ Club in London, 26th April 2017
The term ‘non-fiction’ is freighted with implications and expectations. The chief of them is an implicit contract with the reader that what is to be found between the covers will be truth rather than fictive invention. ‘But what is truth? said jesting Pilate, and would not stay for an answer.’ Of course the author of a work of non-fiction has a responsibility to the facts, but the relationship is never a straightforward one, because even supposed facts are open to interpretation.
Genre is significant here too: the different categories of non-fiction – history, biography, travelogue, nature writing, memoir and the wider genre now known as ‘life writing’ – lay claim to differing balances between objectivity and subjectivity.