“Letters, letters, letters ...”
Detecting Histories and the Past in A. S. Byatt’s Possession: a Romance (1990)
Vesselin Budakov (St. Kliment Ohridski University of Sofia, Bulgaria)
Two accidentally uncovered letters, carefully tucked between the pages of a copy of Vico’s Principi di scienza nuova in the London Library, cause to open a vigorous investigation of the past in A. S. Byatt’s Possession: a Romance (1990). As the subtitle implies, this is a quest story that plunges its characters into an epistemological search for the identity of the addressee of these letters, which subsequently leads to the unearthing of a clandestine intimate correspondence, well concealed for a hundred years, between two fictional nineteenth-century intellectuals, Randolph Henry Ash and Christabel LaMotte. The aim of the paper is to explore Byatt’s metafictional approach to the construction and invention of history that, later in her On Histories and Stories (2000), she discusses in a more theoretical light with regard to the method of writing and interpreting historical narratives.