Portal:Novels

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The Novels Portal

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A novel is a long narrative, normally in prose, which describes fictional characters and events, usually in the form of a sequential story.

The genre has also been described as possessing "a continuous and comprehensive history of about two thousand years". This view sees the novel's origins in Classical Greece and Rome, medieval, early modern romance, and 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. Ian Watt, however, in The Rise of the Novel (1957) suggests that the novel first came into being in the early 18th century,

Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote, is frequently cited as the first significant European novelist of the modern era; the first part of Don Quixote was published in 1605.

The romance is a closely related long prose narrative. Walter Scott defined it as "a fictitious narrative in prose or verse; the interest of which turns upon marvellous and uncommon incidents", whereas in the novel "the events are accommodated to the ordinary train of human events and the modern state of society". However, many romances, including the historical romances of Scott, Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights and Herman Melville's Moby-Dick, are also frequently called novels, and Scott describes romance as a "kindred term". Romance, as defined here, should not be confused with the genre fiction love romance or romance novel. Other European languages do not distinguish between romance and novel: "a novel is le roman, der Roman, il romanzo."

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Selected article

The 1759 frontispiece of Candide
Candide is a 1759 French satire by the Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire. The novella begins with a young man, Candide, who is living a sheltered life in an Edenic paradise and being indoctrinated with Leibnizian optimism by his tutor, Pangloss. The work describes the abrupt cessation of this existence, followed by Candide's slow, painful disillusionment as he witnesses and experiences great hardships in the world. Voltaire concludes with Candide, if not outright rejecting optimism, advocating an enigmatic precept, "we must cultivate our garden", in lieu of the Leibnizian mantra of Pangloss, "all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds". Candide is known for its sarcastic tone and its erratic, fantastical, and fast-moving plot. With a story similar to that of a more serious bildungsroman or picaresque novel, it parodies many adventure and romance clichés, the struggles of which are caricatured in a tone that is mordantly matter-of-fact. Still, the events discussed are often based on historical happenings, such as the Seven Years' War and the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. As philosophers of Voltaire's day contended with the problem of evil, so too does Candide in this short novel, albeit more directly and humorously. Immediately after its secretive publication, the book was widely banned because it contained religious blasphemy, political sedition and intellectual hostility hidden under a thin veil of naïveté. Today, Candide is recognised as Voltaire's magnum opus.

Selected novel quote

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  • Incredulity doesn't kill curiosity; it encourages it. Though distrustful of logical chains of ideas, I loved the polyphony of ideas. As long as you don't believe in them, the collision of two ideas -- both false -- can create a pleasing interval, a kind of diabolus in musica. I had no respect for some ideas people were willing to stake their lives on, but two or three ideas that I did not respect might still make a nice melody. Or have a good beat, and if it was jazz, all the better.

Foucault's Pendulum


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