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Roman À Clef

  Roman à clef (‘story with a key’) is a form of writing in which real people are presented, accurately or otherwise, as characters with their names changed. Sometimes the purpose is satirical, as in Somerset Maugham\'s novel Cakes and Ale, in which the literary feuds of 1930s London were given a waspish working over. However, the allusions can be subtler. In Rabelais\'s Pantagruel, for example, or Swift\'s Gulliver\'s Travels, the parodies are of specific politicians and thinkers of the day, but they are so subsumed into the general narrative that real identities are now a matter of largely antiquarian interest, and a reverse situation exists to the one intended by the author: the characters in the roman à clef flesh out real identities and behaviour rather than the other way about. KMcL  



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