Meaning of roman-à-clef in English:

roman-à-clef

Pronunciation /ˌrəʊmɒ̃ɑːˈkleɪ/

nounplural noun romans-à-clef/ˌrəʊmɒ̃ɑːˈkleɪ/

  • A novel in which real people or events appear with invented names.

    ‘It is the crudest roman-à-clef, glaringly derivative and creakingly obvious.’
    • ‘Although Murdoch's novels cannot be read, strictly speaking, as romans à clef, she projected aspects of herself and her friends onto her characters, sometimes onto several characters in the same novel.’
    • ‘She published several novels and memoirs, including The New Atalantis, a roman à clef (published with a Key to its characters) in which she attacked various Whigs and people of note.’

Origin

French, literally ‘novel with a key’.