More Than a Historical Novel: Women, History, and Metafiction in Enchi Fumiko’s Namamiko Monogatari

Author: Ka Yan Lam
Published: November 30, 2017

Citation: Lam, K. Y. (2017). More Than a Historical Novel: Women, History, and Metafiction in Enchi Fumiko’s Namamiko Monogatari. IAFOR Journal of Literature & Librarianship, 6(2).


The very nature of the historical novel that rests on the ambiguity between history and fiction contributes to the obscure boundary between fictional and historical discourses. Using a historical setting with people and events of historical fact, female historical novelists are capable of articulating their feminist concerns and making social protests on forbidden modern-day issues. While historical discourses mirror literary writing, the value of narrativity in historical representations of reality is merely as an aesthetic effect. Many authors of historical discourses interpret and report their materials in narrative form, in the process of which the representation is governed by certain factual criteria but also some degree of imagination. The resulting ambivalences create a space of ambiguity for women writers to address gender inequality and questionable social practices. Although Enchi Fumiko’s Namamiko monogatari (A Tale of False Fortunes) has been regarded by critics as a historical novel, the objective of this essay is to defend her novel as a work of feminist historiographic metafiction. Enchi intertextually incorporates fictional and historical texts to expose the problematic conventions of the historical novel. Whereas emplotting the chronicle and the romance structures adds plausibility to the narration, the metafictional narratorial interventions undermine the truthfulness of the narrator’s recounted tale. Hence Enchi has created a new form of historical fiction that uncovers a different, more inclusive version of Heian women’s ‘history’.


Enchi Fumiko, Namamiko monogatari, the historical novel