Autobiographical novel

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An autobiographical novel, also known as a autobiographical fiction, fictional autobiography, or autobiographical fiction novel, is a type of novel which uses autofiction techniques, or the merging of autobiographical and fictive elements. The literary technique is distinguished from a typical autobiography or memoir by being a work of fiction presented in the same fashion as a typical non-fiction autobiography by "imitating the conventions of an autobiography."[1]

Because an autobiographical novel is partially fiction, the author does not ask the reader to expect the text to fulfill the "autobiographical pact".[2] Names and locations are often changed and events are recreated to make them more dramatic but the story still bears a close resemblance to that of the author's life. While the events of the author's life are recounted, there is no pretense of exact truth. Events may be exaggerated or altered for artistic or thematic purposes.[3]

Novels that portray settings and/or situations with which the author is familiar are not necessarily autobiographical. Neither are novels that include aspects drawn from the author's life as minor plot details. To be considered an autobiographical novel by most standards, there must be a protagonist modeled after the author and a central plotline that mirrors events in their life.

Novels that do not fully meet these requirements or are further distanced from true events are sometimes called semi-autobiographical novels. [citation needed]

Many novels about intense, private experiences such as war, family conflict or sex, are written as autobiographical novels.[clarification needed]

Some works openly refer to themselves as "non-fiction novels". The definition of such works remains vague. The term was first widely used in reference to the non-autobiographical In Cold Blood [citation needed] by Truman Capote but has since become associated with a range of works drawing openly from autobiography. The emphasis is on the creation of a work that is essentially true, often in the context of an investigation into values or some other aspect of reality. The books Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig and The Tao of Muhammad Ali by Davis Miller open with statements admitting to some fictionalising of events but state they are true "in essence".

Notable autobiographical novels[edit]

Author Title Year
James Agee A Death in the Family 1957
Louisa May Alcott Little Women 1868
Sherman Alexie The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian 2007
Maya Angelou I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings 1969
James Baldwin Go Tell It on the Mountain 1953
J. G. Ballard Empire of the Sun 1984
John Barth Once Upon a Time: A Floating Opera 1994
Saul Bellow The Adventures of Augie March 1953
George Borrow Lavengro: The Scholar, the Gypsy, the Priest 1851
Charlotte Brontë Villette 1853
Rita Mae Brown Rubyfruit Jungle 1973
Charles Bukowski Post Office 1971
William S. Burroughs Junkie 1953
Samuel Butler The Way of All Flesh 1903
Louis Ferdinand Céline Journey to the End of the Night 1932
J. M. Coetzee Boyhood: Scenes from Provincial Life 1997
J. M. Coetzee Youth: Scenes from Provincial Life II 2002
J. M. Coetzee Summertime 2009
Charles Dickens David Copperfield 1850
Charles Dickens Great Expectations 1861
Nodar Dumbadze Granny, Iliko, Illarion, and I 1960
Nodar Dumbadze The Sunny Night 1967
Marguerite Duras The Lover 1984
George Eliot The Mill on the Floss 1860
Ralph Ellison Invisible Man 1952
Frederick Exley A Fan's Notes 1967
F. Scott Fitzgerald This Side of Paradise 1920
James Frey A Million Little Pieces[a] 2003
James Frey My Friend Leonard[b] 2005
Jean Genet The Thief's Journal 1949
Jean Genet Our Lady of the Flowers 1943
John Green Looking for Alaska 2005
Graham Greene The End of the Affair 1951
Ernest Hemingway A Farewell to Arms 1929
Homer Hickam October Sky 1998
Thomas Hughes Tom Brown's School Days 1857
James Joyce A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man 1916
Jack Kerouac On the Road 1957
Jack Kerouac The Dharma Bums 1958
Imre Kertész Fatelessness 1975
Karl Ove Knausgård My Struggle series 2009–2011
D. H. Lawrence Sons and Lovers 1913
Tao Lin Richard Yates 2010
Jack London John Barleycorn 1913
Fitz Hugh Ludlow The Hasheesh Eater 1857
Norman Maclean A River Runs Through It and Other Stories 1976
W. Somerset Maugham Of Human Bondage 1915
Henry Miller Tropic of Cancer 1934
Henry Miller Tropic of Capricorn 1939
Davis Miller The Tao of Muhammad Ali 1996
Sandy Mitchell Ciaphas Cain 2003
Tim O'Brien The Things They Carried 1990
Kenzaburō Ōe A Personal Matter 1964
Robert M. Pirsig Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance 1973
Sylvia Plath The Bell Jar 1963
Marcel Proust In Search of Lost Time[c] 1927
Gregory David Roberts Shantaram 2003
Mona Simpson Anywhere but Here 1986
Gertrude Stein The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas 1933
Hunter S. Thompson Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas 1971
Leo Tolstoy Childhood 1852
Leo Tolstoy Boyhood 1854
Leo Tolstoy Youth 1856
Denton Welch A Voice Through a Cloud 1950
Denton Welch Maiden Voyage 1943
Elie Wiesel Night[d] 1958
Jeanette Winterson Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit 1985
Thomas Wolfe Of Time and the River 1935
Thomas Wolfe Look Homeward, Angel 1929
Annie Ernaux Happening 2000
Tobias Wolff Old School[e] 2003
Annie Ernaux The Years 2008

See also[edit]


  1. ^ A Million Little Pieces was marketed as a memoir before a media controversy questioned its accuracy
  2. ^ My Friend Leonard was marketed as a memoir before a media controversy questioned its accuracy
  3. ^ Also known as Remembrance of Things Past
  4. ^ Night is sometimes considered an autobiographical novel, although it is classified as a memoir by the author
  5. ^ Old School is loosely based on Wolff's life although it is more novel than biography


  1. ^ Hans Vandevoorde (2019). 3.20 Fictional Autobiography. pp. 603–610. doi:10.1515/9783110279818-076. ISBN 978-3-11-027981-8. Retrieved 10 April 2024. {{cite book}}: |website= ignored (help)
  2. ^ Philippe Lejeune, "Autobiographical Pact", pg. 19.
  3. ^ Sean Glatch (2021). "WHAT IS AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL FICTION? AN INTRODUCTION TO THE GENRE". Retrieved 10 April 2024.