Portal:Novels

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The Novels Portal

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A novel is a long narrative, normally in prose, which describes fictional characters and events, usually in the form of a sequential story.

The genre has also been described as possessing "a continuous and comprehensive history of about two thousand years". This view sees the novel's origins in Classical Greece and Rome, medieval, early modern romance, and the tradition of the novella. The latter, an Italian word used to describe short stories, supplied the present generic English term in the 18th century. Ian Watt, however, in The Rise of the Novel (1957) suggests that the novel first came into being in the early 18th century,

Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote, is frequently cited as the first significant European novelist of the modern era; the first part of Don Quixote was published in 1605.

The romance is a closely related long prose narrative. Walter Scott defined it as "a fictitious narrative in prose or verse; the interest of which turns upon marvellous and uncommon incidents", whereas in the novel "the events are accommodated to the ordinary train of human events and the modern state of society." Scott's definition is not to be thought more than historical, however; for many romances, including Scott's own historical romance, Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights and Herman Melville's Moby-Dick, are also frequently called novels, and Scott describes romance as a "kindred term". Romance, as defined here, should not be confused with the genre fiction love romance or romance novel. Other European languages do not distinguish between romance and novel: "a novel is le roman, der Roman, il romanzo."

More about novels...

Selected article

Frontispiece of 1901 Avil Publishing Company edition of Cousin Bette
La Cousine Bette is an 1846 novel by French author Honoré de Balzac. Set in mid-19th century Paris, it tells the story of Bette, an unmarried middle-aged woman who plots the destruction of her extended family. Bette works with Valérie Marneffe, an unhappily married young lady, to seduce and torment a series of men. The book is part of the Scènes de la vie parisienne section of Balzac's novel sequence La Comédie humaine. In the 1840s, a serial format known as the roman-feuilleton was highly popular in France, and Balzac wanted to prove himself the most capable feuilleton author in France. Writing quickly and with intense focus, Balzac produced La Cousine Bette, one of his longest novels, in two months. It was published in Le Constitutionnel at the end of 1846, then collected with a companion work, Le Cousin Pons, the following year. The story explores themes of vice and virtue, as well as the influence of money on French society. Bette's relationship with Valérie is also seen as an important exploration of homoerotic themes. La Cousine Bette is considered Balzac's last great work. His trademark use of realist detail combines with a panorama of characters returning from earlier novels. Several critics have hailed it as a turning point in the author's career, and others have called it a prototypical naturalist text.

Selected novel quote

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  • It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant, while I was chained to a wall and being tortured. I realized, somehow, through the screaming in my mind, that even in that shackled, bloody helplessness, I was still free: free to hate the men who were torturing me, or to forgive them. It doesn't sound like much, I know. But in the flinch and bite of the chain, when it's all you have got, that freedom is a universe of possibility. And the choice you make, between hating and forgiving, can become the story of your life.

Shantaram


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