chapter  6
Fiction and Testimony in Don DeLillo’s Falling Man
ByJen Webb
Pages 16

History is replete with stories: with individual and group accounts of triumphs or

disasters, grand occasions and the small, everyday events of life. Public or

private, dramatic or banal, events become a part of the official record when they

are shaped by narrative devices into historical reports, media stories or academic

publications. And every now and then, a work of fiction becomes a significant

part of the record of a moment of history. The question of how, and whether, fiction can constitute such a record is one

that has long been the subject of debate among historians, literary theorists and

philosophers. I admit to a somewhat equivocal position on this debate. On the

one hand, I value the rigour, replicability and accountability of the scientific or

historical method. But on the other hand, I am sufficiently convinced by the

decades (and more) of investigation into the ontology of narratives to agree that

any account is as much story as it is ‘truth’, and that fiction too has a place in the

social and historical record. Fiction that is well and ethically written, and is

based on evidence as well as conjecture, can offer a form of testimony by

rendering an event, an experience, and characters in a manner that is evocative,

accessible and factually supportable.