roman à clefplay
Definition of roman à clef
romans à clef\-ˌmäⁿ-(ˌ)zä-\
: a novel in which real persons or actual events figure under disguise
roman à clef was our Word of the Day on 06/27/2009. Hear the podcast!
Did You Know?
Unlock the fiction, open the door and see the very real people behind it, wrote Jeff Simon in The Buffalo News (March 19, 1998). That can be easily done when a roman à clef uses fictitious names to present thinly veiled depictions of well-known people or events. But what if only a few insiders know the real people or incidents? In the 1800s, such romans a clef sometimes included a key, a list matching fictional characters with their real-life counterparts, that helped readers recognize the players. Such keys made "roman a clef" (from a French phrase meaning "a novel with a key") an apt term for such works. Nowadays, there are no published keys in a roman à clef - merely veiled (or sometimes blatant) references that connect fact with fiction.
Origin and Etymology of roman à clef
French, literally, novel with a key
First Known Use: 1882
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