Did You Know?

The word “novel” was used only by the end of the 18th Century. This word is an English transliteration of the Italian word “novella”. “Novella” is used to describe a short, compact, broadly realistic tale popular during the medieval period.


In the year 1007 a Japanese noble woman, Murasaki Shikibu, wrote the world’s first full novel. Called “The tale of Genji,” it tells the story of a prince looking for love and wisdom. A traditional novel is said to have a unified and plausible plot structure, sharply individualised and believable characters, and a pervasive illusion of reality. Initially, one major characteristic of the novel was realism – a full and authentic report of human life.

As readers were accepting this illusion of reality and were passive receptors to everything the novel was saying, the anti-novel style emerged! An anti-novel is any experimental work of fiction that avoids the familiar conventions of the novel. The name was coined by French critic Jean-Paul Sartre.

The anti-novel was invented by the French. Anti-novel writers insist that traditional novels sketch a false appearance of the world in much the same way as television soap operas do – or as Murasaki Shikibu did. Instead of creating fantasy plots and characters, antinovelists emphasise the minute details of life and the world. The anti-novel usually fragments and distorts the experience of its characters, forcing the reader to construct the reality of the story from a disordered narrative.

Newer styles of novels have been constantly emerging. Novel in verse form or Verse novels are a contemporary genre combining the power of narrative with the rich, evocative language of verse or poetry. Although the narrative structure of a verse novel is similar to that of a novella, the organisation of the story is usually in a series of short sections, often with changing perspectives. Verse novels are often told with multiple narrators, providing readers with a cinematic view into the inner workings of the characters’ minds. Some verse novels employ an informal, colloquial register. Yevgeny Onegin by Alexander Pushkin is a classical example of this style.

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