"The interpretation I am proposing here of the 'quasi-historical' character of fiction quite clearly overlaps with the interpretation I also proposed of the 'quasi-fictive' character of the historical past. If it is true that one of the functions of fiction bound up with history is to free, retrospectively, certain possibilities that were not actualized in the historical past, it is owing to its quasi-historical character that fiction itself is able, after the fact, to perform its liberating function. The quasi-past of fiction in this way becomes the detector of possibilities buried in the actual past. What 'might have been'—the possible in Aristotle's terms—includes both the potentialities of the 'real'past and the 'unreal' possibilities of pure fiction.
This deep affinity between verisimilitude of pure fiction and the unrealized possibilities of the historical past explains perhaps, in turn, why fiction's freedom in relation to the constraints of history—constraints epitomized by documentary proof —does not constitute, as was stated above, the final word about the freedom of fiction. Free from the external constraint of documentary proof, is not fiction internally bound by its obligation to its quasi-past, which is another name for the constraint of verisimilitude? Free from…, artists must still render themselves free for…. If this were not the case, how could we explain the anguish and the suffering of artistic creation? Does not the quasi-past of the narrative voice exercise an internal constraint on novelistic creation, which is all the more imperious in that it does not coincide with the external constraint of documentary facts? And does not the difficult law of creation, which is to 'render' in the most perfect way the vision of the world that animates the narrative voice, simulate, to the point of being indistinguishable from it, history's debt to the people of the past, to the dead? Debt for debt, who, the historian or the novelist, is the most insolvent?" (Ricoeur 1990:191-192).
1990 Time and Narrative: Volume 3. Kathleen Blamey and David Pellauer, trans. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.
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