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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." Scott's definition is not to be thought more than historical, however; for many romances, including Scott's own historical romance, 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."

More about novels...

Selected article

Simón Bolívar, protagonist of the novel
The General in His Labyrinth is a novel by the Colombian writer and Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez. It is a fictionalized account of the last days of Simón Bolívar, liberator and leader of Gran Colombia. First published in 1989, the book traces Bolívar's final journey from Bogotá to the Caribbean coastline of Colombia in his attempt to leave South America for exile in Europe. In this dictator novel about a continental hero, "despair, sickness, and death inevitably win out over love, health, and life". Breaking with the traditional heroic portrayal of Bolívar El Libertador, García Márquez depicts a pathetic protagonist, a prematurely aged man who is physically ill and mentally exhausted. The story explores the labyrinth of Bolívar's life through the narrative of his memories. Its mixture of genres makes The General in His Labyrinth difficult to classify, and commentators disagree over where it lies on the scale between novel and historical account. García Márquez's insertion of interpretive and fictionalized elements—some dealing with Bolívar's most intimate moments—caused outrage in parts of Latin America when the book was released. Many prominent Latin American figures believed that the novel damaged the reputation of one of the region's most important historic figures and portrayed a negative image to the outside world.

Selected novel quote

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  • ‘What’s your name?’ he asked.
    ‘Wendy Moira Angela Darling,’ she replied with some satisfaction. ‘What is your name?’
    ‘Peter Pan.’
    She was already sure that he must be Peter, but it did seem a comparatively short name.
    ‘Is that all?’
    ‘Yes,’ he said rather sharply. He felt for the first time that it was a shortish name.
    ‘I’m so sorry,’ said Wendy Moira Angela.
    ‘It doesn’t matter,’ Peter gulped.
    She asked where he lived.
    ‘Second to the right,’ said Peter, ‘and then straight on till morning.’
    ‘What a funny address!’
    Peter had a sinking feeling. For the first time he felt that perhaps it was a funny address.
    “A moment after the fairy’s entrance the window was blow open by the breathing of the little stars, and Peter dropped in.”

Peter Pan


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