The fictional condition of literature, especially of the genres with the greatest presence of a narrative story (dramatic and narrative), goes back to the first reflections on it: Aristotle already warned that the essential differentiating feature between history and literature is that the first told what had happened and the second what could have happened.
Thus, the literary work is offered, in its creative aspect, as an essentially imaginative fact: with a fantasy or day dream Freud compared it.
recreate and represent
Instead, in its mimetic or imitative dimension, the literary text constructs a story as a fictional universe, as a possible world. In a more realistic or fantastic way, to a greater or lesser extent, it does not so much double and reproduce, as it represents and recreates the external empirical world with its elements and laws, discursively inventing or transfiguring beings, events, moments and places.
The credible construction of all of this, not truthful but coherent, is a necessary requirement of a literary work, even in its most imaginative and fantastic degree (a mermaid has the tail of a fish, a flying horse has wings). The implicit author-reader pact, by which the reader grants credibility to the literary text that he reads, semantically and pragmatically governs and qualifies this basic fictional condition of said text.
There is, however, the possibility of finding narrative works whose degree of fictionality, literary elaboration and imagination and authorial subjectivity is minimal, with objectivity and maximum referentiality and factuality predominating, in a configuration almost closer to the historical narrative or the news. extensive journalism than literature.
Apart from scientific essays, when this occurs in a literary work, primarily a narrative one, it is possible to speak of a factual or non-fiction novel, a notion created by Anglo-Saxon criticism exemplifying it in Cold-blooded by Truman Capote.
Metafiction, on the other hand, alludes to self-referentiality, to the procedure by which the literary text speaks of itself in particular or of literature in general: its writing, its genre, its influences…
It arises with the self-awareness contributed by the modern novel and is linked to the pleasure of narrating, the vindication of imaginative and creative freedom and the encouragement of the role of the reader’s interpretation.
They are Spanish metafictional novels The Quijote of Cervantes, Fog of Unamuno or The meek friend Galdós among others; remember the famous beginning of If one winter night a traveler by Italo Calvino: “You are starting to read the new novel by Italo Calvino if one night …”
Metafiction is particularly linked to the metatextuality characteristic of the relationship between the work and its criticism or between the work and the internal publishing environment (introductory prologue, synthesizing epilogue, etc.) Any journalistic criticism of a novel in a weekly supplement of a newspaper or the famous Annotations from Herrera to Garcilaso’s poems are good examples.
The term autofiction was proposed in his 1977 novel Sons by Serge Doubrovsky to designate a fictional autobiography. Using the formula “I, the real author, am going to tell you a story starring me that never took place”, in this narrative modality the real author shows himself as the main character and narrator who narrates in the first person, however, an untrue story: the Quixote de Cervantes, due to his unfolding as the author of a fictional story, has been one of the outstanding examples.
Autofiction is thus linked to fictional autobiography –more than false–, which has an early and excellent exponent in Spain in the Good Love Book of Juan Ruiz, the Archpriest of Hita and, more recently, in Autobiography of Federico Sanchez by Jorge Semprún or the polish horseman by Antonio Munoz Molina.
The parallel case, in the field of biography, which I have called analogically allofictionwould therefore be that of the fictitious biography, like the famous Josep Torres Campalans by Max Aub.
Two contemporary Spanish examples
Salamis Soldiers by Javier Cercas perfectly blends meta and autofictional elements. The novel is based on a historical fact that is transformed into realistic and objective narrative fiction: that of the story and the incident of the Falangist Sánchez Mazas.
But all the elements that refer to the intratextual presence of the journalist Cercas and his interviews with Sánchez Ferlosio and Roberto Bolaño, in the first and third parts of the work, primarily build the autofictional fabric in it.
And, on the other hand, the metafictional, self-referential plot of the novel is configured by the presence of the writer Cercas, who wants to write a “real story” about Sánchez Mazas, unlike his first two fiction books, and who begins it, questions himself about aspects of the work and the protagonist, about his writing work, picks up and reads Mazas’ diary, stops and resumes writing, etc.
Also like the shadow that leaves by Antonio Muñoz Molina links these two elements. Autofiction is built from the imaginary that activates a double fictional story about personal and professional life fictionalized through the trinity of the author-narrator-character self, mainly in Lisbon: the immediate memory of the near present and the evocation of a past more than thirty years old. previous years.
The metafiction, which integrates as always numerous intertextual references to cinema, music and literature, is in this case double when recounting the writing process of the current novel that he plans, investigates and carries out on the trajectory of James Earl Ray, the murderer. by Luther King (the most fictional part of the work, although it is also part of a historical fact) and his other much earlier work of Winter in Lisbon.