Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
A novella is a short, narrative, prose fiction work. Like the English word "novel", the English word "novella" derives from the Italian word "novella" (plural: "novelle"), for a tale, a piece of news. As the etymology suggests, novellas originally were news of town and country life worth repeating for amusement and edification.
As a literary genre, the novella's origin lay in the early Renaissance literary work of the Italians and the French. Principally, by Giovanni Boccaccio (1313–1375), author of The Decameron (1353)—one hundred novelle told by ten people, seven women and three men, fleeing the Black Death by escaping from Florence to the Fiesole hills, in 1348; and by the French Queen, Marguerite de Navarre (1492–1549), [aka Marguerite de Valois, et. alii.], author of Heptaméron (1559)—seventy-two original French tales (structured like The Decameron). Her psychological acuity and didactic purpose out-weigh the unfinished collection's weak literary style.
Not until the late eighteenth- and early nineteenth- centuries did writers fashion the novella into a literary genre structured by precepts and rules. Contemporaneously, the Germans were the most active writers of the Novelle (German: "novella"; 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 narration's steady point.
In German, the English word novella is Novelle, and the English word novel is the German Roman, this etymological distinction avoids confusion of the literatures and the forms, with the novel being the more important, established fictional form. The Austrian writer Stefan Zweig's (1881–1942), Die Schachnovelle (1942) [The Check Novel], translated (1944) as The Royal Game, is an example of a title naming its genre.
In English, a novella is a story mid-way—in length (30–40,000 words) and structural complexity—between a short story (500–15,000 words) and a novel (60,000 words, minimum). A novella focuses upon a single chain of events with a psychologically surprising turning point, e.g. Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886), by Robert Louis Stevenson (1850–94); and Heart of Darkness (1902), by Joseph Conrad (1857–1924).
Commonly, longer novellas are addressed as novels; though incorrectly, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Heart of Darkness are called novels, as are many science fiction works such as War of the Worlds and Armageddon 2419 A.D.. Occasionally, longer works are addressed as novellas, with some academics positing 100,000 words as the novella–novel threshold. In the science fiction genre, the Hugo and Nebula literary awards define the novella as: "A...story of between seventeen thousand, five hundred (17,500) and forty thousand (40,000) words."
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