Portal:Novels

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A novel is a long prose narrative written by a novelist that describes fictional characters and events, usually in the form of a sequential story. The genre has historical roots in antiquity and the fields of medieval and early modern romance and in 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.

Further definition of the genre is historically difficult. The construction of the narrative, the plot, the relation to reality, the characterization, and the use of language are usually discussed to show a novel's artistic merits. Most of these requirements were introduced to literary prose in the 16th and 17th centuries, in order to give fiction a justification outside the field of factual history.

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La Peau de chagrin is an 1831 novel by French novelist and playwright Honoré de Balzac (1799–1850). Set in early 19th-century Paris, it tells the story of a young man who finds a magic piece of shagreen that fulfills his every desire. For each wish granted, however, the skin shrinks and consumes a portion of his physical energy. La Peau de chagrin belongs to the Études philosophiques group of Balzac's sequence of novels, La Comédie humaine. Although the novel uses fantastic elements, its main focus is a realistic portrayal of the excesses of bourgeois materialism. The book's central theme is the conflict between desire and longevity. The magic skin represents the owner's life force, which is depleted through every expression of will, especially when it is employed for the acquisition of power. Ignoring a caution from the shopkeeper who offers the skin to him, the protagonist greedily surrounds himself with wealth, only to find himself miserable and decrepit at the story's end. La Peau de chagrin firmly established Balzac as a writer of significance in France and abroad. His social circle widened significantly, and he was sought eagerly by publishers for future projects. It inspired Giselher Klebe's opera Die tödlichen Wünsche and may have influenced Oscar Wilde's novel The Picture of Dorian Gray.

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  • "The Scarlet Pimpernel?" said Suzanne, with a merry laugh. "Why! what a droll name! What is the Scarlet Pimpernel, Monsieur?"
    She looked at Sir Andrew with eager curiosity. The young man's face had become almost transfigured. His eyes shone with enthusiasm; hero-worship, love, admiration for his leader seemed literally to glow upon his face. "The Scarlet Pimpernel, Mademoiselle," he said at last "is the name of a humble English wayside flower; but it is also the name chosen to hide the identity of the best and bravest man in all the world, so that he may better succeed in accomplishing the noble task he has set himself to do."
    "Ah, yes," here interposed the young Vicomte, "I have heard speak of this Scarlet Pimpernel. A little flower — red? — yes! They say in Paris that every time a royalist escapes to England that devil, Foucquier-Tinville, the Public Prosecutor, receives a paper with that little flower designated in red upon it.

The Scarlet Pimpernel

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