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A novella is a work of written, fictional, narrative prose 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". The novella is a common literary genre in several European languages.
The novella as a literary genre began developing in the early Renaissance by the Italian and French literatura, principally Giovanni Boccaccio, author of The Decameron (1353). The Decameron featured one hundred tales (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 would then be imitated by subsequent authors, notably the French queen Marguerite de Navarre, who wrote a Heptaméron (1559) that included seventy-two 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.
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. 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.
- See the article novel for the historical generic debate.
- See the article Word count 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. Austrian writer Stefan Zweig's 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,[by whom?] 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.
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"; 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.
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."
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. The author described it as a novella, but the panel for the Man Booker Prize in 2007 qualified the book as a "short novel". 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 by Jack London. This book, by modern standards, is short enough and straightforward enough to qualify as a novella. Historically, it has been regarded as a novel and hence it will continue to be regarded as such until someone makes a definitive case otherwise.
Dictionaries define novelette similarly to novella; sometimes identically, sometimes with a disparaging sense of being trivial or sentimental. Some literary awards have a longer "novella" and a shorter "novelette" categories, with a distinction based on word count.
- See the list of novellas for a more complete listing.
English language novellas include:
- Isaac Asimov, Nightfall
- John W. Campbell, Who Goes There?
- Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany's
- Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness
- Joseph Conrad, The Secret Sharer
- Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol
- Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea
- Jack Kerouac, The Subterraneans
- Stephen King, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption
- Jim Harrison, Brown Dog
- Ira Levin, The Stepford Wives
- Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It
- Herman Melville, Billy Budd, Sailor
- George Orwell, Animal Farm
- Joyce Carol Oates, Black Water
- Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49
- Philip Roth, Goodbye, Columbus
- John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men
- John Steinbeck, The Pearl
- Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
- H. G. Wells, The Time Machine
- Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
- Thornton Wilder, The Bridge of San Luis Rey
- Charles Webb, The Graduate
French examples of the novella include Voltaire's Candide, Saint-Exupery's The Little Prince, and Colette's Cheri. An example in German is Franz Kafka's novella The Metamorphosis. Also notable is Austrian writer Stefan Zweig's Die Schachnovelle (1942).
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.
- Novella - Definition at Merriam-Webster Dictionary online (Accessed 7 March 2010)
- "Definition and history of 'novella'". merriam-webster.com. Retrieved 6 February 2014.
- Kercheval, Jesse Lee (1997). "Short shorts, novellas, novel-in-stories". Building Fiction. Cincinnati, Ohio: Story Press. ISBN 1-884910-28-9.
- Encyclopedia of literature in Canada. Edited by William H. New. University of Toronto, 2000. Page 835.
- "The Sweetness of Short Novels" by Ingrid Norton, Open Letters Monthly February 2010
- King, Stephen (1982). Different Seasons. Viking Adult. ISBN 978-0-670-27266-2.
- Silverberg, Robert. Sailing to Byzantium. New York: ibooks, inc., 2000. ISBN 0-7861-9905-9
- Fetherling, George. Briefly, the case for the novella.
- "Ian McEwan claims the novella is better than the novel". The Telegraph (HOME»CULTURE»BOOKS»BOOK NEWS) (Telegraph Media Group Limited). Telegraph Media Group Limited. 15 Oct 2012. Retrieved 27 September 2015.
- American Heritage Dictionary (4th ed.): novella (2), novelette; Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary: novelette;
- 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;
- "Nebula Rules". Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Awards.
- "Constitution" (PDF). World Science Fiction Society. 2009. pp. sec 3.3.2, 3.3.3. Retrieved 20 January 2013.
- "Award Rules". Shirley Jackson Awards. Retrieved 20 January 2013.
- "RITA Awards : RITA Category Descriptions and Judging Guidelines". myRWA. Romance Writers of America. Retrieved 20 January 2013.
- "The British Fantasy Awards Constitution". British Fantasy Society. Retrieved 20 January 2013.
- "Eligibility and conditions". Paris Literary Prize. Retrieved 20 January 2013.
- "Black Orchid Novella Award Guidelines, Procedures, and FAQs". Wolfe Pack. Retrieved 20 January 2013.
|Look up novella in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- Fassler, Joe (April 24, 2012). "The Return of the Novella, the Original #Longread". The Atlantic.