Posts Tagged ‘Delphine de Vigan’

‘Based on a True Story’ by Delphine de Vigan – The Mysterious Lady L.


‘Based on a True Story’ by Delphine de Vigan   (2017) – 374 pages      Translated from the French by George Miller

In ‘Based on a True Story’, Delphine de Vigan deals with the notions of reality versus fiction.  It is brilliant, a novel for our time.  Should a writer write only memoirs about their own personal real experiences? Take these words from the mysterious woman L. who invades Delphine’s territory:

“People have had enough of well-constructed intrigue, clever plot hooks, and denouements… Take it from me, readers expect something different from literature and they’re right: they expect the Real, the authentic.  They want to be told about life, don’t you see? Literature mustn’t mistake its territory.” 

Actually ‘Based on a True Story’ is a horror story with an atmosphere of menace with a malevolent undercurrent.  The mysterious woman L. takes over Delphine’s life after Delphine has published her first successful novel.  L. makes impassioned pleas to Delphine to write a memoir instead of fiction, that nowadays people only want what’s real.  These pleas only leave Delphine with a severe case of writer’s block.  L. even takes over Delphine’s personal computer sending out an email to all of Delphine’s friends begging them not to contact or bother Delphine because she is busy writing.  She even signs Delphine’s name to the email.  This email leaves Delphine virtually isolated and unable to write.  There are certain traits of the obsessed fan in ‘Based on a True Story’ that remind me of Stephen King’s ‘Misery’.

Delphine does fight back:

“Listen carefully.  I’m going to tell you something: I have never written to please anyone and I have no intention of starting now…Because deep down writing is much more intimate and much more commanding than that.”

My best guess as to who is this mysterious woman L. is that she is a double, a doppelgänger, of Delphine.

‘Based on a True Story’ is exceptional because De Vigan has created a fiction, a clever haunting story, with herself as the main character.  Director Roman Polanski has made a movie from ‘Based on a True Story’ which also won the 2015 Prix Goncourt.

I have thought a lot about the Reality versus Fiction debate and have come out strongly on the side of Fiction (no surprise there).  I rarely read memoirs, finding them usually self-serving as is especially true of political memoirs.  Nothing on television seems so fake to me as reality TV shows. My view is that fiction gives writers the necessary distance to tell the larger truths about themselves and their characters.  I read fiction not for escape but to better understand the world and the people in it.


Grade:   A  


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