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A novella is a text of written, fictional, narrative prose normally longer than a short story but shorter than a novel, somewhere between 17,500 and 40,000 words.

The English word "novella" derives from the Italian novella, feminine of novello, which means "new".[1] The novella is a common literary genre in several European languages.

History


The novella as a literary genre began developing in the Italian literature of the early Renaissance, principally Giovanni Boccaccio, author of The Decameron (1353).[1] The Decameron featured 100 tales (named novellas) told by ten people (seven women and three men) fleeing the Black Death, by escaping from Florence to the Fiesole hills in 1348. This structure was then imitated by subsequent authors, notably the French queen Marguerite de Navarre, whose Heptaméron (1559) included 72 original French tales and was modeled after the structure of The Decameron.

Not until the late 18th and early 19th centuries did writers fashion the novella into a literary genre structured by precepts and rules, generally in a realistic mode. At that time, the Germans were the most active writers of the novelle (German: "Novelle"; plural: "Novellen"). For the German writer, a novella is a fictional narrative of indeterminate length—a few pages to hundreds—restricted to a single, suspenseful event, situation, or conflict leading to an unexpected turning point (Wendepunkt), provoking a logical but surprising end. Novellen tend to contain a concrete symbol, which is the narrative's focal point.

Structure


A novella generally features fewer conflicts than a novel, yet more complicated ones than a short story. The conflicts also have more time to develop than in short stories. Novellas may or may not be divided into chapters (good examples of those with chapters are Animal Farm by George Orwell and The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells) and are often intended to be read at a single sitting, as is the short story, although in a novella white space is often used to divide the sections, and therefore, the novella maintains a single effect.[3] Warren Cariou wrote:

Versus novel


The term novel, borrowed from the Italian novella, originally meant "Any of a number of tales or stories making up a larger work; a short narrative of this type, a fable" and was then many times used in the plural,[5] reflecting the usage as in Decameron and its followers. Usage of the more italianate novella in English seems to be a bit younger.[6] The differenciation of the two terms seems to have occurred only in the 19th century, following the new fashion of the novella in German literature. In 1834, John Lothrop Motley could still speak of "Tieck's novels (which last are a set of exquisite little tales, novels in the original meaning of the word)".[7] But when the term novella was used it was already clear that a rather short and witty form was intended: "The brief Novella has ever been a prodigious favorite with the nation…since the days of Boccaccio."[8] In 1902, William Dean Howells wrote: "Few modern fictions of the novel's dimensions…have the beauty of form many a novella embodies."[9]

Sometimes, as with other genres, the genre name is mentioned in the title of a single work (compare the Divine Comedy or Goethe's Das Märchen). Austrian writer Stefan Zweig's Die Schachnovelle (1942) (literally, "The Chess Novella", but translated in 1944 as The Royal Game

Commonly, longer novellas are referred to as novels; Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886) and Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness (1899) are sometimes called novels, as are many science fiction works such as H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds (1897) and Philip Francis Nowlan's Armageddon 2419 A.D. (1928). Less often, longer works are referred to as novellas. The subjectivity of the parameters of the novella genre is indicative of its shifting and diverse nature as an art form. In her 2010 Open Letters Monthly

Stephen King, in his introduction to Different Seasons, a collection of four novellas, has called the novella "an ill-defined and disreputable literary banana republic";[11] King notes the difficulties of selling a novella in the commercial publishing world, since it does not fit the typical length requirements of either magazine or book publishers. Despite these problems, however, the novella's length provides unique advantages; in the introduction to a novella anthology titled Sailing to Byzantium, Robert Silverberg writes:

In his essay, "Briefly, the case for the novella", Canadian author George Fetherling (who wrote the novella Tales of Two Cities) said that to reduce the novella to nothing more than a short novel is like "insisting that a pony is a baby horse".[13]

The sometimes blurry definition between a novel and a novella can create controversy, as was the case with British writer Ian McEwan's On Chesil Beach (2007). The author described it as a novella, but the panel for the Man Booker Prize in 2007 qualified the book as a "short novel".[14] Thus, this "novella" was shortlisted for an award for best original novel. A similar case is found with a much older work of fiction: The Call of the Wild (1903) by Jack London. This book, by modern standards, is short enough and straightforward enough to qualify as a novella. However, historically, it has been regarded as a novel.

Versus novelette


Dictionaries define novelette similarly to novella; sometimes identically,[15] sometimes with a disparaging sense of being trivial or sentimental.[16] Some literary awards have a longer "novella" and a shorter "novelette" categories, with a distinction based on word count. A range between 7,500 and 17,500 words is common among awards.[17][18][19]

Notable examples


This list contains those novellas that are widely considered to be the best examples of the genre, through their appearance on multiple best-of lists.[20][21][22][23][24][25] See list of novellas for other notable examples.

Word counts


Some literary awards include a "best novella" award and sometimes a separate "best novelette" award, separately from "best short story" or "best novel". The distinction between these categories may be entirely by word count.

See also


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