The term ‘novel’, in a literary sense, derives from the Italian word novella (storia) meaning ‘new (story)’. The modern sense of the word describes a long fictional prose narrative typically over 40,000 words in length; however, this is not the original sense of ‘novel’. Prior to the mid-17th century, a novel was a collection of short narratives that were compiled into a series. Fairy tales which had traditionally been told orally and were then collected and written down fell into this category. One of the most famous examples of a novel, in this original sense, was Giovanni’s Boccaccio’s Decameron (1354), which told 100 tales of men and women fleeing the Black Death in Italy.
During the 17th and 18th century the novel was often compared with a romance (not to be confused with the love story genre): the former dealt with the realities of real life, people and society, whereas the latter could include more fantastic, even supernatural events; an example being Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights.
The great thing about novels are their ability to either strike a great personal connection with you, transport you to a different world for a couple of hours during your day, and to make the reader question and reflect on life, people and the human condition. They create conversation, perhaps a common ground and a shared experience.
Talking to staff at EVS Translations, I asked what people’s favourites novels were and many classic titles came up including Alice’s adventures in wonderland, 20,000 leagues under the sea and The picture of Dorian Grey. Here are some of the staff favourites:
I could never single out a particular one, but one of my favourite collections is Stieg Larsson’s “The Millennium Trilogy”.
“My favourite novel would probably have to be The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. My grandfather read this book to me when I was young so it has a lot of personal significance. It has a bible story feel to it and contains religious overtones, and carries a message of “never give up”, which is probably why I liked it since it’s very easy to relate to”.
“1984. My dad gave me his copy when I was 15 or so”.
“The only English novels I remember and I actually read ages ago are Wuthering Heights and Great Expectations. Both are great literary masterpieces – great characters and great stories. I almost forgot about the Harry Potter series and of course, Lord of the Rings – these are absolutely incredible books…I just love the world they depict.”
“Catch 22! Should read it again now. I read it two years ago but my English has improved now— there were some terms I never really got. Just thought about that character…who was spending his time with boring people so time ran more slowly, and he was afraid to die…”