Novella

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This article is about the literary form. For other uses, see Novella (disambiguation).

A novella is a written, fictional, prose narrative normally longer than a short story but shorter than a novel. 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.

Structure[edit]

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. Unlike novels, they are usually not divided into chapters, and are often intended to be read at a single sitting, as the short story, although white space is often used to divide the sections. They maintain, therefore, a single effect.[2] Warren Cariou wrote:

The novella is generally not as formally experimental as the long story and the novel can be, and it usually lacks the subplots, the multiple points of view, and the generic adaptability that are common in the novel. It is most often concerned with personal and emotional development rather than with the larger social sphere. The novella generally retains something of the unity of impression that is a hallmark of the short story, but it also contains more highly developed characterization and more luxuriant description.[3]

History[edit]

The novella as a literary genre began developing in the early Renaissance literary work of the Italians and the French, principally by Giovanni Boccaccio (1313–1375), author of The Decameron (1353)[4] — one hundred novelle told by ten people, seven women and three men, fleeing the Black Death by escaping from Florence to the Fiesole hills, in 1348; and by the French Queen Marguerite de Navarre (1492–1549), [aka Marguerite de Valois, et. alii.], author of Heptaméron (1559)—seventy-two original French tales (modeled after the structure of The Decameron).

Not until the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries did writers fashion the novella into a literary genre structured by precepts and rules, generally in a realistic mode. Contemporaneously, 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 steady point. They are still famous now.

Notable examples[edit]

Famous English language novellas include:

French examples of the novella include Voltaire's Candide, Saint-Exupery's The Little Prince, and Colette's Cheri among others. A German language example is Franz Kafka's novella The Metamorphosis.

Versus novel[edit]

See the article novel for the historical generic debate.
See the article Length of a novel for comparative word counts.

This etymological distinction avoids confusion of the literatures and the forms, with the novel being the more important, established fictional form. The Austrian writer Stefan Zweig's (1881–1942) Die Schachnovelle (1942) (literally, "The Chess Novella", but translated in 1944 as The Royal Game) is an example of a title naming its genre.

Commonly, longer novellas are referred to as novels; Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Heart of Darkness are sometimes called novels, as are many science fiction works such as The War of the Worlds and Armageddon 2419 A.D. 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 series, "A Year With Short Novels," Ingrid Norton criticizes the tendency to make clear demarcations based purely on a book's length:

Google "novels" and "length" and you will find tables of word counts, separating out novels from novellas, even from the esoteric and still shorter "novelette" — as though prose works were dog show contestants, needing to be entered into proper categories. But when it comes to writing, any distinctions that begin with an objective and external quality like size are bound to be misleading. The delicate, gem-like jigsaw of Thornton Wilder's The Bridge of San Luis Ray [sic] could not be more unlike the feverishly cunning philosophical monologue of Albert Camus' The Fall, but both novels are about the same length.[5]

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";[6] 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:

[The novella] is one of the richest and most rewarding of literary forms...it allows for more extended development of theme and character than does the short story, without making the elaborate structural demands of the full-length book. Thus it provides an intense, detailed exploration of its subject, providing to some degree both the concentrated focus of the short story and the broad scope of the novel.[7]

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 "saying a pony is a baby horse."[8]

Versus novelette[edit]

Dictionaries define novelette similarly to novella; sometimes identically,[9] sometimes with a disparaging sense of being trivial or sentimental.[10] Some literary awards have separate "novella" and "novelette" categories, with a distinction based on word count, "novelette" being shorter.[11][12] [13]

Awards word counts[edit]

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.

Award Genre Organisation Minimum Maximum Ref
Nebula Award for Best Novelette science fiction or fantasy Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America 7,500 17,499 [11]
Nebula Award for Best Novella science fiction or fantasy Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America 17,500 39,999 [11]
Hugo Award for Best Novelette science fiction or fantasy World Science Fiction Society 7,500 17,500 [12]
Hugo Award for Best Novella science fiction or fantasy World Science Fiction Society 17,500 40,000 [12]
RITA Award for best novella romance Romance Writers of America 20,000 40,000 [14]
British Fantasy Award for Novella fantasy British Fantasy Society 15,000 40,000 [15]
Paris Literary Prize literary fiction Shakespeare and Company 17,000 35,000 [16]
Black Orchid Novella Award mystery Nero Wolfe Society 15,000 20,000 [17]
Shirley Jackson Award for best novelette psychological suspense, horror, or dark fantasy 7,500 17,499 [13]
Shirley Jackson Award for best novella psychological suspense, horror, or dark fantasy 17,500 39,999 [13]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Novella - Definition at Merriam-Webster Dictionary online (Accessed 7 March 2010)
  2. ^ Kercheval, Jesse Lee (1997). "Short shorts, novellas, novel-in-stories". Building Fiction. Cincinnati, Ohio: Story Press. ISBN 1-884910-28-9. 
  3. ^ Encyclopedia of literature in Canada. Edited by William H. New. University of Toronto, 2000. Page 835.
  4. ^ "Definition and history of 'novella'". merriam-webster.com. Retrieved 6 February 2014. 
  5. ^ "The Sweetness of Short Novels" by Ingrid Norton, Open Letters Monthly February 2010
  6. ^ King, Stephen. Different Seasons. Viking Adult, 1982. ISBN 978-0-670-27266-2
  7. ^ Silverberg, Robert. Sailing to Byzantium. New York: ibooks, inc., 2000. ISBN 0-7861-9905-9
  8. ^ Fetherling, George. Briefly, the case for the novella.
  9. ^ American Heritage Dictionary (4th ed.): novella (2), novelette; Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary: novelette;
  10. ^ Collins Dictionary: novella (2), novelette (2); Macmillan Dictionary (US ed.): novella, novelette; Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary (UK ed.): novella, novelette; novelette]; Concise Oxford English Dictionary: novella, novelette; Webster's New World Dictionary: novella, novelette;
  11. ^ a b c "Nebula Rules". Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Awards. 
  12. ^ a b c "Constitution". World Science Fiction Society. 2009. pp. sec 3.3.2, 3.3.3. Retrieved 20 January 2013. 
  13. ^ a b c "Award Rules". Shirley Jackson Awards. Retrieved 20 January 2013. 
  14. ^ "RITA Awards : RITA Category Descriptions and Judging Guidelines". myRWA. Romance Writers of America. Retrieved 20 January 2013. 
  15. ^ "The British Fantasy Awards Constitution". British Fantasy Society. Retrieved 20 January 2013. 
  16. ^ "Eligibility and conditions". Paris Literary Prize. Retrieved 20 January 2013. 
  17. ^ "Black Orchid Novella Award Guidelines, Procedures, and FAQs". Wolfe Pack. Retrieved 20 January 2013. 

External links[edit]