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This article examines the ways a specific subset of contemporary fiction responds to the “reality hunger” (Fields) phenomenon, so visible in both literary production and academic discourse over the past few decades. Starting from what Laurent Demanze describes as “encyclopedic fictions,” it discusses the paradoxical – and yet powerful – potential for fiction (“le romanesque”) that springs from erudition within the novel. Erudite fiction today has become a genre (or sub-genre), with novels imitating it by making up archives or historical documents as if to provide them with a narrative starter. The article then turns to a recent novel by Valeria Luiselli, Lost Children Archives (2019), the last stage of a three-step process that led Luiselli from fieldwork to non-fiction to fiction writing. This writing process, and the transformations of the attested material from which it grew, triggers a discussion of the modalities of “documentary fiction,” its aesthetics, and the ways in which literature is used as a political platform.