We explain what the novel is, the types that exist and what its structure is like. Also, what are its general characteristics and examples.
What is the novel?
The novel is a literary genre , a subgenre of the narrative , together with the short story and the chronicle . It consists of a usually long narrative , of a more or less fictional nature, which is usually told by chapters or segments, in which the voice of a narrator always intervenes .
The novels usually have a complex and abundant plot , in which there are digressions, drifts or twists and turns, and in which there are usually several characters and even different points of view from which the story is told. It is even usual to find secondary stories, subplots, fragments of other texts of another nature in a novel.
There are no exactitudes as to what a novel can or cannot be , especially in contemporary novels, which usually consist of discontinuous, fragmentary, tangential, absurd, etc. stories. Some can even masquerade as letters, documents, or another format. They always have in common that their length is greater than that of stories.
Origin of the novel
The novel has the direct antecedent of the epic genre .
This genre began in antiquity , and the adventures of classic heroes are usually narrated , as in Homer’s Odyssey .
Then it was cultivated during the European Middle Ages with a more or less similar sense.
In this case the fictional adventures of knights errant were told , very common in a continent divided into small enemy kingdoms.
However, it is considered that one of the first novels in a modern sense was Don Quixote de la Mancha , by the Spanish Miguel de Cervantes, in 1605. It is considered the first novel because it was written in prose and because of its variety of characters and stories, framed into a larger main plot, which gave it unity.
However, novels in a broader sense have existed since the Renaissance . They can even be traced back to the 11th century in Japan .
Classification of the novel
The novel is a diverse genre, multiple in ways whose content is usually classified as:
- Adventure novels. They tell from start to finish a journey, a vital journey or an exciting episode in the life of a character, which when returning home is no longer the same as the beginning.
- Science fiction novels. They explore the possible impact of science and technology on the lives of human beings , generally in imaginary futures.
- Police novels . Stories that involve the clarification of a crime, so their protagonists tend to be policemen, detectives or journalists. They have a subgenre known as black police , in which the protagonists no longer remain in the law during the story, but are part of a more sordid world in which it is difficult to separate criminals and policemen.
- Romance novels . Stories focused on the adventures or misadventures of love, passion or eroticism of the characters.
- Novels of chivalry. His stories focus on the life of a medieval knight errant and detail his adventures against monstrous creatures or enemy armies.
- Horror novels. They contain terrifying, sinister or mysterious anecdotes, in which monsters and supernatural entities intervene, causing fear in the reader.
- Fantastic novels. They present a possible world, built entirely from the author’s imagination, with its own particular rules, creatures and history, different from the real world.
- Realistic novels. They pose stories set in the reality close to the author, without magical or supernatural attributes, and that reproduce it with enough accuracy.
- Psychological novels. They enter the minds of their characters: reflections, feelings and the inner world, and from there they narrate the events that occurred.
- Philosophical novels. In them there are many reflections of an existential or transcendental type, told together with a story that encourages or frames them.
- Epistolary novels. They tell their stories from the reproduction of fictional or imaginary letters, or from journal entries, emails and other forms of correspondence between the characters.
Structure of the novel
It is usual for the body of a novel to be divided into entries called chapters . In addition, there may be another type of division, called parts, which groups together several chapters. In both cases, they are ways of segmenting the story in an orderly way. They are usually numbered and even titled.
However, a novel can have many and very diverse narrative structures , since it is the realm of narrative freedom. For example, it may not have divisions, or it may also be counted in thousands of tiny entries.
Elements that make up the novel
Typically, a novel has the following narrative elements:
- Characters. To whom the actions occur and whose lives (or moments of them) are told in the novel. They may or may not also be the narrators of it.
- Storyteller. One or more narrators may appear in a novel. They are in charge of telling the story, whether they were witnesses to it, its protagonists or voices not involved with the events.
- Dialogues They are the transcripts of what the characters say, without the narrator intervening to tell them.
Extension of the novel
It is assumed that the length would have to be greater than that of a story . But for sure there is no single criterion for how many pages it should have.
Until a few years ago the term ” nouvelle ” was used to refer to short novels , of less than 100 pages, which nevertheless continued to present the slow, closed universe and abundant in detail that characterizes this genre. So, in principle, a novel is as long as it needs to be.
Difference between novel and short story
The story and the novel have fundamental differences, which do not refer only to the length (longer in the novel, traditionally) but to the way of reading.
A story is usually read at once , since it tells us a continuous episode in the lives of the characters. It can take place in a day, several days, or over the years, but it must be read linearly to have the final effect, which is usually surprising to the reader.
The novel, on the other hand, can be read for a longer time , more slowly. The narrative comes and goes because it is full of ramblings and more varied explorations of the characters and their lives.
Julio Cortázar, famous Argentine writer, clarified this difference using a boxing metaphor: the story beats the reader by knock out , while the novel wins the fight by points.
The contemporary novel is one that is written from the twentieth century . It originates from various revolutions in the way of writing literature , the result of the avant-garde.
It reflects the tensions of the time, and generally undertakes the task of telling from fragments , or discontinuous discourses (unlike a classical or traditional novel, which is linear, direct). In some cases, he uses elaborate allegories using scientific or other speeches .
Why is the novel important?
The novel is the literary genre that best reflects the complexities of human life in its most recent centuries, which is why it has been cultivated more than ever before. On several occasions its death has been predicted, but instead it simply undergoes new mutations and changes, rediscovering itself and continuing in force.
Some famous novelists of the Spanish language are:
- Miguel de Cervantes (Spanish, 1547-1616).
- Gabriel García Márquez (Colombian, 1927-2014).
- Mario Vargas Llosa (Peruvian, 1936-).
- Juan Goytisolo (Spanish, 1931-2017).
- Carlos Fuentes (Mexican, 1928-2012).
- Fernando Vallejo (Colombian, 1942-).
- Rómulo Gallegos (Venezuelan, 1884-1969).
- Juan Carlos Onetti (Uruguayan, 1909-1994).
Some famous examples of novels are:
- Crime and Punishment of Fyodor Dostoevsky.
- Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert.
- Mrs. Bárbara de Rómulo Gallegos.
- The Franz Kafka trial .
- One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez.
- Hopscotch by Julio Cortázar.
- The real lemon tree by Juan José Saer.
- For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway.
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