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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Selected article

Title-page engraving from an 1897 edition of Le Père Goriot
Le Père Goriot is an 1835 novel by French novelist and playwright Honoré de Balzac, included in the Scènes de la vie privée section of his novel sequence La Comédie humaine. Widely considered as Balzac's most important novel, it marks the first serious use by the author of characters who had appeared in other books, a technique that distinguishes Balzac's fiction and makes La Comédie humaine unique among bodies of work. It is also noted as an example of his realist style, using minute details to create character and subtext. Set in Paris in 1819, Le Père Goriot follows the intertwined lives of three characters: the elderly doting Goriot; a mysterious criminal-in-hiding named Vautrin; and a naive law student named Eugène de Rastignac. The story takes place during the Bourbon Restoration, which brought about profound changes in French society; the struggle of individuals to secure upper-class status is ubiquitous in the book. The novel was released to mixed reviews. Some critics praised the author for his complex characters and attention to detail; others condemned him for his many depictions of corruption and greed. A favorite of Balzac's, the book quickly won widespread popularity and has often been adapted for film and the stage.

Selected novel quote

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  • "You know that song 'If a body catch a body comin' through the rye'? I'd like — "
    "It's 'If a body meet a body coming through the rye'!" old Phoebe said. "It's a poem. By Robert Burns."
    "I know it's a poem by Robert Burns."
    She was right, though. It is "If a body meet a body coming through the rye." I didn't know it then, though.
    "I thought it was 'If a body catch a body,'" I said. "Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody's around — nobody big, I mean — except me. And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff — I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I'd do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like to be. I know it's crazy."

The Catcher in the Rye


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Original jacket for Lad: A Dog, first edition, 1919

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