The Boat

Fact and Fiction in The Boat College

The Dutch Historian Pieter Geyl once stated that “Imagination plays too important a role in the writing of history, and what is imagination but the projection of the author's personality.”(1) If we were to replace the word ‘history’ with ‘a historically based story’, is this not also the case with Nam Le’s novel The Boat? Of course, one must acknowledge the fact that Le’s book is effectively a work of fiction, yet there are so many true historical elements within his stories that one could be excused for believing that Geyl had said this with Le’s writings in mind - granted that the former had lived to see our times. In each story, the author recounts someone’s struggle to find their place in the world, often to the backdrop of an event of some historical significance, while placing upon it his own fictitious mark. This essay will explore some of the ways in which Le portrays and links together a few of the complexities of truth, fiction and identity in the world we live in. Let us begin by defining what this means before we apply it to Le’s text.

Quid est Veritas? What is ‘truth’ to the mind of Nam Le? Perhaps it is the “ideal or fundamental reality apart from and transcending perceived experience”. Or is it simply “...

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