The novel by Gennady Pospelov 1935

The novel

Written: 1934
First Published: 1935 in Literary Encyclopedia, volume 8, pg. 773-795 (in Russian)
Source: Literary Encyclopedia
Translated: by Anton P.

The novel is a great epic form, the most typical genre of bourgeois society.


The name “novel” (roman) arose in the Middle Ages and initially referred only to the language in which the work was written. The most common language of medieval Western European writing was, as we know, the literary language of the ancient Romans: Latin. In the 12th-13th centuries AD, along with plays, novels, stories written in Latin and existing mainly among the privileged classes of society, the nobility and the clergy, stories written in Romance languages began to appear, and existed mainly among the democratic strata of society that did not know Latin, among the merchant bourgeoisie, artisans, burghers (the so-called third estate). These works, in contrast to the Latin ones, began to be called conte roman, a romance story, a novel. And then the adjective acquired an independent meaning. Thus, a special name for narrative works arose. In the future, it became part of the language and over time lost its original meaning. In every language, a work large in size, differing in some features of the subject matter, compositional construction, plot development, etc., began to be called a novel. In modern times, especially in the 18th-19th centuries, this type of work became the leading genre of modern fiction.


Despite the exceptional prevalence of this genre, its boundaries are still not sufficiently clear and defined. Along with the works bearing this name, we meet in the literature of the last centuries major narrative works, which are called stories. Some writers give their great epic works under the title of a poem (suffice it to recall Gogol, his Dead Souls).

All these great epic genres exist alongside the novel and differ from it, although their names, like those of the novel, are not well defined. The problem therefore lies in approaching the works themselves, their distinctive features, and, on the basis of their study, to determine what the novel is, how it differs from other major narrative genres, and what is its essence. Studies of this kind have been repeatedly made by historians and literary theorists. While trying to define the features of the novel as a genre, they, however, went into a scrupulous description of individual novels, their structure, their compositional originality; they were looking for an answer to the question in the plane of formal observations, on the basis of purely morphological generalizations. They made their research static, losing the socio-historical perspective. A striking example of this kind of research is the work of the formalist school, in particular the work of Viktor Shklovsky.

Mistakes of a different kind are found among those literary historians who proceeded from an absolutely correct methodological premise: the solution of the problem of poetry, like all other poetic forms, is possible only in a historical perspective. They gave, first of all, the history of the novel, hoping to capture its unity, its historical essence in the change of all possible ramifications of this genre. An illustrative example of this kind of research is the work of K. Tyander “Morphology of the novel”. However, he could not theoretically master the mass of historical material, differentiate it and outline the correct perspective; his “morphology” of the novel was reduced to the external history of this genre. Such is the fate of the vast majority of novel studies of this type.

In a special position were those researchers who combined the historicity of the study with the height of theoretical premises. Among specialists in literary criticism, representatives of the old bourgeois literary criticism, unfortunately, there were almost no such people. The greatest bourgeois dialectical philosophers, and above all Hegel, did much more for the theory of the novel. But the main conclusions of Hegelian aesthetics, in addition to the fact that they must be rearranged from head to toe, are still insufficient for constructing a theory of the novel (for more on the Hegelian formulation of the problem of the novel, see the section The Novel as Bourgeois Epic). To solve the problem of poetry, one must first of all raise the question of how and when, under what socio-historical conditions this genre arose, what and whose artistic and ideological needs it satisfied, what and whose other poetic genres it replaced.


It was not by chance that a certain genre of large narrative works, called the novel, received and firmly retained for itself not any other, but precisely this name that arose in Western European literature of the 12th-13th centuries. It was during this era that some significant shift began to take shape in French, Spanish and other literatures. In contrast to the already established literary creativity of the privileged classes of feudal society, the literary creativity of the third estate began to take shape, with the merchant bourgeoisie at the head. And as a result, to replace the old large narrative genres that dominated ancient and feudal-chivalric literature – the heroic epic and the legend – a new genre began to emerge: the novel. Epic and legend were stable narrative genres in the literature of the Greco-Roman slave society and all eras of early and even mature European feudalism. Here we find examples of these genres already in personal and written work. Suffice it to recall Virgil’s Aeneid, Tasso’s Jerusalem Delivered, The Tale of Igor’s Campaign, etc. But next to this and in the Middle Ages, numerous narrative works arose, which were distributed orally by wandering singer-storytellers, troubadours and shpilmans. These works in their genre are chivalric epics and legends. They also merge into cycles around heroes and plots (the Arthurian cycle, the Carolingian cycle). They respond to the same ideological demands that the epics of antiquity responded to, but on a new social basis and in a new style. They glorify the exploits of knights, bearers of moral prowess, the political identity of chivalry, and religious orthodoxy. Such are Parsifal, which subsequently gave the plot to Wagner; such are eg. Duke Ernst and King Rother, which arose on somewhat different grounds. Many of these knightly epics existed, and then were written down in the Romance languages ​​and at one time received the name roman (novel). Under the label “medieval novels”, they are often interpreted and are still in the history of literature. But such a designation is completely wrong. The historically established and traditionally accepted name in this case obscures the perspective. The epic and legend of the ancient and Middle Ages, being major narrative works, were not, however, what was later called novel. These were completely different genres that responded to completely different ideological demands. These demands could arise and exist only during early and middle feudalism. This entire period of the development of European society was distinguished by a weak development of individual self-consciousness, a kind of immersion of the individual in the interests of the clan, in the traditions of the tribe, in the ideological and moral structure of the community, estate, caste. Legend and epic arose as the artistic aspirations of a tribe, clan, class to glorify their historical past, their political present and realize in them the highest predestinations of one’s destiny. Here, however, there was not that conscious individualism, which is prevalent in the bourgeois novel. Here the heroic personality stood out (prince, king, hero, knight), but it was perceived as the bearer of some of the highest tribal moral and religious principles: tribal self-determination, political power, divine destiny, moral destiny, etc.

The situation is different with the novel. The novel as a genre arose on a different social soil, on the basis of a different social self-consciousness, in response to other ideological demands. It was not in vain that Hegel called the novel a “bourgeois epic”: the social environment that created and put forward this genre was really the bourgeoisie; she created her major narrative works not as epics, but as something completely new, opposed to the ancient and knightly epic.

The entire social life, way of life, customs of the medieval merchant bourgeoisie and other strata of the bourgeoisie adjoining it were imbued with completely different principles. The economic life of this environment was entirely based on personal enterprise, the struggle of an individual economic unit against others. This environment did not have strong tribal and caste traditions, it did not have a heroic past, it was all turned not backward, but forward, into the perspective of its social growth. All this determined the social self-consciousness of the bourgeois strata of the Middle Ages; it was naturally imbued with the principles of personal enterprise, individualism, ideological and moral criticism, and hidden hostility towards the ruling classes. And on the basis of such self-consciousness, different from the self-consciousness of feudal circles, other ideological demands naturally grew up, interest in other aspects of reality grew. And this, in turn, led to the emergence of other types of artistic creativity. Of course, chivalric epics and legends also existed in the bourgeois environment, causing here, to some extent, the corresponding moods. But it was still someone else’s work, foreign genres that came from outside. In its own social milieu, the bourgeoisie had its own particular literary interests and tastes. In the town house of a feudal master, in the mansion of a poor merchant-negociant, who delivers his goods along the most diverse roads of life and has seen all sorts of things, there was no ground for the development of a heroic epic. Here a crude joke, a funny anecdote, a funny erotic story, a story about a clever trick or an extraordinary adventure arose from life itself and passed from mouth to mouth. Here wit was valued, resourcefulness was encouraged; here they rejoiced and envied personal successes in the rotation of life; here they mockingly laughed at the deceived simpleton, at the unsuccessful lover, at the skygazer who got into trouble, especially if it was a priest or a knight, a nobleman. And so the corresponding poetic genres arose, took shape and matured, meeting all these ideological demands, expressing an ideological interest in all such aspects and moments of reality. First of all, these were anecdotes, short stories about this or that incident, this or that adventure, which differed in the corresponding structure of the plot and received different names in different languages: facetia, fablio, short stories, jarts, etc. In the new literature, the name of the short story took root pretty solid. However, the novella is only a small form of the new style. Just as in the feudal-aristocratic creativity a whole epic gradually formed from a series of heroic songs (epics), so in the work of the medieval bourgeoisie a gradually larger form matured from a series of novellas: the form of the novel. The medieval novel is a chain of adventure short stories, united by one or several heroes. This genre is not, of course, a mechanical mix of short stories; on the basis of a quantitative increase, a certain new poetic quality arose here, expressing similar ideological requests even more fully and deeply. But it is still possible to historically trace intermediate forms between the novella and the novel. Entire collections of short stories arise, gravitating towards each other, but devoid of the unity of the characters. These are eg. Italian collections: Cento novelle antiche or Decameron by Boccaccio; such is the Heptameron of Marguerite of Navarre in French literature. There are plots, which, with their long history, clearly reveal the process of the emergence of the novel from short stories. Such is, for example, the plot of Reinecke the Fox, processed by Goethe; the forerunner of numerous works on this subject was the novel of the 12th century Isengrinus by Nivardus, characterized by an extensive plot, clearly divided into a number of separate adventure novellas; but Nivardus, in turn, only processed and expanded this plot, which arose under the pen of a German author of the late 11th century, and then contained only two short stories, two adventures. So the novel arises on the social ground on which the short story is created, as an expression of the same ideological needs and interests, but more complete, deep and multifaceted. In this sense, the novel can be called a large form of the same literary style. The medieval bourgeoisie, in its various strata, expressed in this great form their mentality, their outlook on life, their worldview. She created an adventurous novel, she placed at its center a hero who experiences all sorts of adventures, amuses readers with his clever tricks, an adventurous hero, a rogue; she forced the rogue hero to experience random and external adventures (a love affair, a meeting with robbers, a successful career, a clever money scam, etc.), without being interested in either deep social and everyday characteristics or complex psychological motivations; she scattered everyday scenes along the path of her hero-adventurer, expressing in them her penchant for rude jokes, her sense of humor, her hostility to the ruling classes, her ironic attitude towards their customs and manifestations; at the same time, she failed to grasp life in its deep social perspective, limiting itself to external characteristics, showing a tendency to detail, to savor everyday details. The novel turned out in the style of the medieval bourgeoisie, medieval philistinism: an adventurous novel, naturalistic with a large dose of optimism and a satirical element. Brilliant examples of adventurous novels are the Spanish novel Lazarillo de Tormes (16th century) and the French writer Lesage’s Gil Blas (first half of the 18th century).

In adventurous novels, the medieval burgher class expressed its ideological interest in the individual personality and its fate, in its struggle for its personal interests, for its place under the sun. This interest was an expression of a new class consciousness, which was already emerging in the depths of feudal society and the medieval burgherthum was the initial bearer of it. And when capitalist relations began to take shape, when, in the process of stratification of the feudal estates, new advanced strata began to emerge from them (the industrial bourgeoisie, the capitalizing nobility, the petty bourgeoisie), then similar ideological demands and interests inevitably developed in these strata. Then only in the literary work of the new class groups of the new era is the novel defined as a literary genre of the era of industrial capitalism, although it originates several centuries ago, in the bowels of the medieval burgherthum. Writers of the nobility and the bourgeoisie of the capitalist era began to write novels, but not the adventurous naturalistic novels of the old style, but everyday or psychological, social, realistic novels, novels of the new styles. Having taken shape in the work of medieval burghers as a definite and complete literary genre that expressed a separate range of ideological interests, the novel now expresses the corresponding ideological and artistic demands of the new social strata of modern times. In each individual national literature, all this happened in accordance with the course of historical development of the country. Therefore, the history of the novel can be understood only on the basis of an understanding of the peculiar alignment of social forces and the resulting originality of the literary development of each people.


The European novel originated on the basis of the development of bourgeois-capitalist relations, although embryonic forms of the novel are also found in ancient society and in the Middle Ages. There was no doubt that there was an appropriate social ground for this. The flourishing of slavery, the growth of commercial capital, the resulting formation of huge states pursuing an aggressive policy, the flourishing of trading cities and refined urban culture, all this destroyed the ancient feudal foundations, decomposed the integrity and immediacy of the patriarchal worldview. The beginnings of individualism, eroticism, adventurism penetrated where severity and simplicity of morals, caste traditions, and ideals of civic prowess recently reigned. At the beginning of our era, such centers of refined urban culture were Alexandria, Rome, Athens, Miletus and other major centers of the Mediterranean. Despite the fact that the vast majority of the works of that era have not reached us, we know by their names the poetic collections that were then a huge success and distribution: Miletian Tales, Satyr Stories. It is difficult to judge to what extent in these books the individual short stories have already intertwined into the canvas of the whole novel, but already in the retellings of the Babylonian Novels of Iamblichus that have come down to us, we meet a complex outline of the adventures of two lovers, who, overcoming all sorts of temptations, are finally united by marriage. A similar compositional-thematic scheme is repeated in the Ethiopian (Theagenes and Charicleia) by Heliodor, in the novel Callirhoe by Chariton, in Leucippus and Clitophon by Achilles Tatius (translated into Russian) and Daphnis and Chloe by Longus. Erotic tendencies, details, to the motives of adventurousness, all this allows us to speak about the existence of such a style of ancient novel, which is similar to the bourgeois one. Here, too, the city was the ground for the emergence of this genre. In Apuleius’ Golden Ass, one apparently has to see other stylistic features. This novel has a pronounced moralistic shade, here the struggle of the individual for self-affirmation takes place in the plane of moral improvement, on the basis of repulsion from the fun and licentiousness of the environment.

In the process of the disintegration of feudalism and the transition to capitalism, France showed classically finished forms of social development. Perhaps that is why, in the history of European medieval and modern times, the priority undoubtedly belongs to the French style. The work of French authors played a very important role in the creation and design of the bourgeois picaresque style. In France, numerous “animal novels” are created based on the story of the adventures of a fox (for example, Les aventures de Renard), which are the best example of this variety of the genre. But along with this, we meet in French literature as far back as the late Middle Ages the adventurous novel of a different style: the novel reflecting the worldview and interests of the feudal-noble strata. These strata were undoubtedly familiar with the originals and with translations of ancient writers, and the latter exerted their influence on the independent work of French authors. So, they were very popular in the 13th-14th centuries, along with the History of Apollo of Tyre, novels about Aucassin and Nicolette or about Flor and Blancheflor, which largely repeat the scheme of the ancient novels of Iamblichus and Heliodorus. These 13th-14th century novels represent the work of the same social strata; by the general nature of their subject matter, they are almost always very close to knightly epics and legends (Aucassin is a noble knight, Flor is a prince); they often praise knightly virtues. But the ideological orientation here is already different: we no longer have the glorification of national exploits, not the glorification of the individual as the bearer of the highest ethical ideals, but the clever tricks of gallant aristocrats fighting for personal happiness, throwing an individualistic challenge to their social environment (both Blancheflor and Nicolette are slaves, and their amorous knights unite with them against the wishes of their noble parents and other dignitaries). Somewhat later, the medieval petty-bourgeois novel undoubtedly had its influence on the works of the nobility and chivalry environment. A vivid example of this is the novel by Antoine de la Salle History and amusing chronicle of little Jehan de Saintre (1459).

During the first centuries of modern times, the bourgeois novel in France gradually pushed aside the noble one, revealing an ever greater cognitive depth and social sharpness, while the noble novel gradually degenerates, gravitating towards elegant sensuality and mannerisms. Rabelais (first half of the 16th century) was the most important representative of the French novel in the region of France. On the contrary, D’Urfe, who in the novel Astrea gave the image of the lovesick shepherdess Celadon, acting in an imaginary shepherd’s country ruled by women, acted as a vivid expression of the gallant refinement of the court nobility. An example of a bourgeois style that fearlessly turned to the “low” sides of reality and its “rough” details was Scarron’s Comic Novel, which was deliberately opposed to the artificial “precisely gallant” novel of the nobility. In the future, the bourgeois novel itself undergoes significant changes. It stands out as a special genre variety of picaresque novels: Gil Blas and The Lame Demon by Lesage (beginning of the 18th century). From the environment of the petty and middle bourgeoisie by the middle of the 18th century, an advanced petty-bourgeois intelligentsia is growing, starting an ideological struggle against the old order and using artistic creativity for this. On this basis, a psychological petty-bourgeois novel arises, in which the central place is no longer gamble, but deep contradictions and contrasts in the minds of the characters fighting for their happiness, for their moral ideals. Rousseau’s The New Heloise (1761) can be called the clearest example of this. In the same era as Rousseau, Voltaire appears with his philosophical and journalistic novel (Candide). Along with this, we find a psychological novel in the style of the patriarchal noble aristocracy, perishing along with the entire ancien regime and realizing its death in the plane of the deepest moral and ideological conflicts. Such is Chateaubriand with his Rene and Atala. Other strata of the feudal nobility, who stood closer to power and were touched by bourgeois culture, met their death in a different way: the cult of elegant sensuality and boundless, sometimes unbridled epicureanism. From here come the noble novels of Rococo with their cult of sensuality. The novels of Rococo, devoted to refined eroticism, had such a great influence on French society in the second half of the 18th century that a number of representatives of the advanced nobility and bourgeoisie spoke through novels, similar in subject matter and mood (for example, Couvre, a member of the Convention and a Girondin who wrote the famous novel The Love Adventures of the Chevalier de Foble). The beginning of the psychological novel was laid by Prevost with his famous novel Manon Lescaut. The defeat of the feudal monarchy and the triumph of the bourgeoisie led to the flourishing of bourgeois French literature and to new shifts in the style of the French novel. The adventurous novel is gradually losing its dominant role, although it still has such major representatives as Victor Hugo, Eugene Sue and Dumas père. In the work of Restif de la Bretonne, B. Constant (Adolphe) and Laclos, and then in the greatest novelists of the 19th century. the French novel is becoming more and more social and, moreover, realistic. From the point of view of formal logic, one can make significant objections to the division of the novel into adventurous, psychological, everyday, etc. Adventure does not at all exclude psychology and everyday life, psychology does not exclude adventures, etc. But the point here is not in these external divisions, the point is in a specific historical perspective, in which individual components of the novel in different eras in different styles act as dominant, not destroying, but only subordinating other components. The adventurous “naturalistic” novel of the previous centuries – bourgeois and noble – included many everyday scenes, sometimes very juicy and well-aimed. But these were usually fluent satirical sketches, scattered along the path of a funny or sentimental adventure, in which they were thematically opposed (the hero’s struggle with “oncoming-transverse”) and absorbed them in itself. In social realism, there are somewhat different relations between the hero and the environment. When in the first half of the 19th century. such major novelists as Stendhal with his Red and Black, Balzac with his multi-volume Human Comedy, and later Flaubert with his Madame Bovary, appeared in French literature, they discovered a much deeper level of artistic knowledge of reality than all previous French novelists. Being thinkers-artists who came from various strata of the industrial-capitalist bourgeoisie and the nobility, they were able to show not external facts, not any chance adventures in the life of their heroes, but deep contradictions and conflicts of their individual consciousness. But showing in their novels the clash of individual interests, the struggle of the individual for his right to life, they, unlike their predecessors, were able to show the conflicts of individual consciousness and personal fate as an expression of deep social, everyday, class conflicts. They were able to recognize the contradictions in the lives of the heroes as the contradictions of living social forces. As a result, their realistic novels acquired a particularly high artistic value. We should once again recall Hegel’s idea that the novel is a bourgeois epic, that is, the highest achievement of epic creativity in the era of capitalism.

But this characteristic does not apply to every bourgeois novel of the 19th century. Next to Balzac and Flaubert, Georges Sand appears with her novels, which depict not so much what is, but what should be, but very clearly express the social ideas and searches of their era. Dumas the son writes his moral novels, affecting the problems of social morality (The Lady of the Camellias, later remade into a play), but does not know how, however, to delve into the very foundations of bourgeois society. The growing contradictions in the capitalist society of France led the French novel to a gradual decline. The students of Balzac and Flaubert began to replace the social realism of their predecessors with naturalistic everyday life. The Goncourt brothers especially sinned here. While they did introduce into French literature the method of objective, experimental quasi-scientific everyday life, the naturalism of their work was however already turning into impressionism. Zola followed the Goncourts, who, in his huge series of novels Rougon-Maquart, revealing the social perspective and exposing the contradictions of French capitalism, paid tribute to the superficial “experimental” everyday life in concrete artistic sketches. A talented student of Zola, Alphonse Daudet, stood at a significant artistic height, and in his Tartarin of Tarascon and other novels gave fairly broad realistic generalizations. The work of Maupassant stands apart, a representative of the degrading French nobility of the capitalist era, who expressed his disgust for the bourgeois world, his social loneliness and pessimism. With the transition of capitalism to its last stage–the stage of imperialism–a new variety of novel appears in French literature: the exotic, colonial novel (Pierre Loti, Claude Farrer, L. Jacolliot, and others). In the epoch of imperialism, an epoch of growing social contradictions, the French bourgeois novel reveals its decline even more clearly. The bourgeois writers of this epoch descend to the cult of sensuality and carefree erotic adventurism, like the writers of the decaying noble aristocracy of the eighteenth century. Such is eg. M. Prevost with his Poludevs and other novels. On the example of such a bourgeois novelist, most characteristic of the era of imperialism, as Marcel Proust, the dead ends of bourgeois art, its decay even among its greatest masters, are revealed with striking clarity. Petty-bourgeois French writers follow two different paths: either along the path of ideological degradation, a vivid example of which is Louis Ferdinand Celine’s novel Journey to the End of the Night, or, under the influence of military catastrophes and proletarian revolutions, they find the strength to rise to great social realistic generalizations, revealing an ever greater attraction to conscious artistic realism (R. Rolland, A. Gide, and others). Their predecessor at the turn of the century is the bright satirist and subtle skeptic Anatole France, in whose work the best traditions of the critical French novel of the 19th century found a kind of continuation.

None of the other European literatures has such a long, bright, truly classical history of the novel as the French one. The Spanish novel gave world literature several striking examples just at the time when Spain was a world power (16th-17th centuries), in order to later again remain in the shadows. During this period, in feudal knightly Spain, first of all, a chivalric romance flourished, depicting, like its French counterpart, the adventures of gallant aristocrats, asserting their estate virtues, often turning into vices. Especially popular here in the 16th century was Amadis of Gali, a novel originally written in Portuguese. Almost simultaneously, a petty-bourgeois picaresque novel was born in Spain, reflecting in its rapid flowering the growth of the third estate on the basis of a trade and colonial policy, the conquest of America, etc. of the 16th century, the heyday of the picaresque Spanish novel, from the samples of which, in addition to the already mentioned Lazarillo de Tormes, Quevedo’s novel The History and Life of the Great Rogue Paul from Segovia should also be mentioned. It was the Spanish petty-bourgeois writers who created this complete type of rogue hero and introduced his characteristic name, picaro, into world literature; Lesage followed in their footsteps in France. However, the development of the Spanish picaresque novel did not occur in isolation, but on the basis of an orientation towards the knightly novel and in the process of repulsion from it. There was a kind of “struggle of styles”, the result of which was the famous novel by Cervantes Don Quixote of La Mancha (1605-1615). In the main image of this work, we find a very subtle parody of the heroes of knightly novels, and next to it the image of the dexterous rogue Sancho Panza, who, with his whole figure and behavior, constantly reduces and exposes the high impulses of his master.

The English novel in the first half of the 18th century. puts forward such major representatives as Jonathan Swift with his famous satirical novel Gulliver’s Travelsand Daniel Defoe, the author of the no less famous Robinson Crusoe, as well as a number of other novels expressing the social outlook of the bourgeoisie. The third estate in England was always quite strong, but nevertheless it did not give bright examples of bourgeois picaresque novels. The bourgeoisie of this country relatively early and gradually managed to subjugate the feudal nobility, imbue it with its spirit, its aspirations, which could not but be reflected in the fate of the nobility. The English bourgeoisie early acquired the notorious respectability, the English nobility early imbued with the beginnings of mercantilism and careerism. All this has found its expression in literature: England, as it were, has passed the period of the feudal adventurous novel, but on the other hand it immediately put forward a whole galaxy of creators of social and everyday novels. The priority here belongs, perhaps, to petty-bourgeois writers. In the middle of the 18th century, Richardson came out with his three novels in letters, sufficiently stretched and depicting the unshakable moral stamina of petty-bourgeois women (Clarissa, Pamela) before the seductions of aristocratic “ladies”. He is followed by Sterne with his famous psychological novel Tristram Shandy. At the same time, another English style is developing: the style of the declassed and bourgeois nobility, the brightest representative of which in the 18th century is Fielding (The Story of the Adventure of Joseph Andrew, The Story of Tom Jones the Foundling). Starting from the sentimental virtue glorified by Richardson, giving a vivid stylistic antithesis to his novels, Fielding exposes the hypocritical morality of the English bourgeoisie and gives a number of fairly true realistic generalizations. Fielding is followed by Smollet (Roderick Random, Peregrine Pickle and other novels), a representative of those layers of the English nobility, which, declassing, retained elements of noble independence and slight contempt for the bourgeois world. In a special position were those groups of the English nobility that were less drawn into the mainstream of capitalist development, dreamed of the past, and experienced deep social dissatisfaction. Such is Walter Scott, the author of numerous historical novels with a royalist tinge. Byron should be singled out, who expressed progressive liberation ideas in his work and, along with his poems, gave two “romantic novels”. Childe Harold’s Journey and Don Juan. In the middle of the 19th century the English realistic novel is making significant progress. The transitional stage from Byronic Romanticism to a realistic novel is formed by the work of Bulwer-Lytton, the author of Pelgham, Paul Clifford, Kenelm Chilingley, The Caxton Family, and other social and everyday novels, in which he gives a very broad picture of English social life at the beginning of the century. The pinnacle of the realistic novels are the novels of Dickens, the illustrious author of many everyday petty-bourgeois novels, of which the best are David Copperfield, Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby, as well as Thackeray with his Vanity Fair, giving a more embittered and strong criticism of the noble-bourgeois society. A special line is the novel of “secrets and horrors” (the so-called Gothic novel), presented by Walpole and Anna Radcliffe with their interest in the Middle Ages, mysterious and extraordinary adventures. Having reached until the middle of the 19th century. such a heyday, the English novel quite early showed signs of a certain stagnation and decline, like that which was later outlined in France. A striking manifestation of the artistic decay of the English novel is the work of James Joyce (The Dubliners, Portrait, Ulysses), which combines sharp social satire and exposure of the vices of a decaying society with complete hopelessness, pessimism, and skepticism.

The history of the German novel shows, in comparison with its English counterpart, a reverse deviation from that classical line of development outlined by French literature. Here the nobility in the Middle Ages was more fragmented and perhaps less civilized than in France and Spain. Here, on the other hand, the bourgeoisie was much weaker and for a long time could not become the ruling class, but, on the contrary, submitted to the nobility or protested helplessly. All this was reflected in the development of German literature, in particular, in the history of the novel. The gallant knightly romance had its representatives (Hartmann von der Aue, Gottfried of Strasbourg, Wolfram von Eschenbach). But until the 18th century here the naturalistic adventure novel dominated. Its first samples date back to the 13th century: Stricker’s Der Pfaffe Amis, for example, contains funny stories about a priest. Later, the famous Till Eulenspiegel appears: a hundred adventures of a mocking and broken wandering artisan. In the 17th century the German adventurous novel reached its climax in Grimmelshausen’s novel Simplicissimus, which tells about the adventures of a boy in the era of the Thirty Years’ War and caused many imitations. From the second half of the 17th century, In connection with the general decline of the economy and culture of the country, the German novel turns pale and degrades in order to flourish again at the end of the 18th and at the beginning of the 19th centuries. This heyday is directly related to the era of Sturm und Drang, which clearly reflected the impotent, purely ideological protest of the rising burghers against the dominance of feudalism. In this regard, the German novel of this era is also saturated with psychologism, revealing relatively weakly social and realistic tendencies. This can be especially clearly seen in the novels of Goethe, who, under the influence of Rousseau and Sterne, first expresses the romantic “world sorrow” of unsatisfied love in The Sufferings of Young Werther and only many years later in Wilhelm Meister peculiarly debunks Romanticism, coming to very profound realistic generalizations, although the traces of the past period affect here as well. Goethe is succeeded by a bright representative of early Romanticism, Jean-Paul Richter. Following him in the late 18th and early 19th centuries a whole group of Romantic writers came forward who created very striking examples of psychological novels in various literary styles. Such are Novalis (Heinrich von Ofterdingen), Friedrich Schlegel (Lucinda), Tieck (William Lovel) and finally the famous Hoffmann, who had a considerable influence on some Russian authors (Devil’s Elixir, The Life and Views of Cat Murr, Serapion Brothers, etc.). These were representatives of those sections of the bourgeois intelligentsia, that protested impotently against both feudal narrow-mindedness and against burgher philistinism. A long period of psychologism and Romanticism is a distinctive feature in the development of the German novel. Only in the era of the revolution of 1848 and on the outskirts of it did it discover a significant shift towards realism. We find this shift in the work of a number of writers connected in one way or another with Young Germany and reflecting the sentiments of the radical petty bourgeoisie. These are, first of all, Immerman with his famous Munchausen (1838-1839) and Gutzkow, in whose novels (Knights of the Spirit, The Roman Magician) the social problems of the era are very sharply posed. They are followed by Spielhagen, the author of such novels as Problematic Natures and One Who is not a Warrior in the Feld, who achieved in them rather deep realistic sketches, Auerbach (Cottage on the Rhine), Gottfried Keller (Green Heinrich), etc. But none of these novels still deserves the title of “bourgeois epic”. Nor did the later German bourgeois novelists of the 19th century, Zuderman and others, do more. They created rather bright social and everyday novels, but failed to free themselves from some tendentious sentimentality in them. At the beginning of the 20th century, two major bourgeois German novelists are writing, the Mann brothers, Heinrich and Thomas. Coming from the decaying big merchant bourgeoisie, who feel the decay of their class, they reveal in their works the contradictions of bourgeois society, paint broad monumental pictures of social life, sometimes approaching the best representatives of critical realism in France in the strength of their artistic generalizations.

Both of them lack a distinct and objective social perspective. Thomas Mann finds a way out in aesthetic moods. Mr. Mann tends to reject old Germany. Recently, he joined the anti-fascist movement (Loyal Subject, etc.). Thomas Mann is more contemplative and subjective, limiting himself in his novels to broad everyday pictures of his environment (The Budenbrook Family, The Magic Mountain).

In the postwar period, revolutionary proletarian literature developed in Germany, representing this genre most widely and fully in Western revolutionary literature. This novel is distinguished by a clear awareness of social contradictions and an orientation towards the proletarian revolution. Its best representatives are: Willi Bredel (The Trial, etc.), Carl Grunberg (The Burning Ruhr), Ernst Ottwald (They Know What They Say), Oscar Maria Graf (The Abyss), Claus Neukrantz (Barricades in Berlin), Anna Seghers (The Fishermen’s Revolt), and others. Recently, the highly talented Feuchtwanger (Success, The Oppenheim Family) has embarked on the path of transition from bourgeois to revolutionary literature.

It should be noted that the novels that flourished in the North American literature of the 20th century are mainly petty-bourgeois novels (Upton Sinclair, Sinclair Lewis, Dreiser, S. Anderson, Dos Passos, and others).

The Russian novel has its own characteristic features of development, due to the uniqueness of the historical process of this country. In ancient Russian literature, an ideology completely based on church dogma dominates, within which the religious world outlook has taken a central place. Therefore, the literature of that era was completely imbued with religious and moralistic sentiments; therefore, it did not even discover in itself the embryonic forms of the short story and the novel, but, on the contrary, created peculiar forms of the political epic (“military tales”) and the religious epic (“lives of saints”). The Russian novel began to take shape in the era of strengthening commercial and bourgeois relations within the feudal system, on the eve of Peter the Great’s “reforms”. From that time until the beginning of the 20th century, that is, over the course of only about 200 years, the Russian novel went through the whole path of historical development, which took the French novel up to six centuries. By the beginning of the 18th century from a moralistic story (Woe-ill-fortune, Savva Grudtsin, etc.), a petty-bourgeois short story gradually grew, a vivid example of which is The Tale of Frol Skobeev. From this soil in the second half of the 18th century a bourgeois stream of personal artistic creativity arises, replete with adventurous novels (Iv. Novikov, M. Komarov, and especially M. Chulkov with his Pretty Cook). In parallel with this, in the aristocratic literature of the nobility, there are translated adventure-knightly novels, mainly French, on the model of which Russian writers of the era of Classicism are trying to create their own works. Along with this, at the very end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries under the pen of Izmailov, Narezhny, and others, a moralistic novel of adventures arises, combining idyllic and satirical sketches of the mores of the province and the capital. In the 1820-30s bourgeois and noble, adventurous and moralistic novels continue to develop. On the way of the first of them, we also meet Bulgarin (Ivan Vyzhigin) and others. At the same time, in the advanced strata of the metropolitan nobility, a social realism appeared very early, based on the corresponding examples of the English and French novel. Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin and Lermontov’s A Hero of Our Time become models for a whole galaxy of novelists of the 1850s and 1860s, representatives of various strata of the nobility and the liberal bourgeoisie. Of these, Turgenev, Goncharov and especially Leo Tolstoy reach great heights with their realistic novels. In their works, written in different styles, we find the same, and sometimes even greater depth of typifying generalizations social reality, combined with the same, and sometimes even greater power of pictorial individualization of images, which is also found by the luminaries of the French realistic novel: Leskov, Dostoevsky, based not on Pushkin and Lermontov, but rather on the tradition of the petty-bourgeois novel of the 1830s. Herzen, Chernyshevsky, Pomyalovsky, Sleptsov and Omulevsky, who devoted their novels to solving social problems, did on Russian soil what is in German literature created by the writers of Young Germany. The subsequent period produces such works as Anna Karenina and Tolstoy’s Resurrection, although at the same time the decline of Russian novel begins, due to the gradual decay of the noble-bourgeois community. In the 1870-80s many protective reactionary novelists appear (Markevich, Krestovsky, Avseenko, and others), who stand at an extremely low cognitive level. In the 1890-1900s. Russian symbolists use the form of the novel to express their mystical, Romantic aspirations (Bryusov’s Fiery Angel and Silver Dove, Bely’s Petersburg, Merezhkovsky’s trilogy, etc.). In these novels, we no longer meet the strength and depth of generalizations that were characteristic of bourgeois-noble novels in the middle of the 19th century. Here the characters turn out to be not so much typical figures of social reality but rather an expression of the author’s vague Romantic moods. In accordance with this, in their plot, the Symbolists go either to distant epochs of history or create exceptional situations with elements of fantasy. Some noble writers are trying at this time to continue the traditions of the nove of the realist classics. But the majority of the most talented Russian prose writers of this epoch began to clearly depart from the genre of the novel (Korolenko, Chekhov, Bunin, Andreev, Kuprin). Some of them try to give large, complicated plots, but do not succeed in this and, at best, create amorphous static stories like Bunin’s Village. On the contrary, the writers of the revolutionary proletariat in the epoch of wars and revolutions continue the line of the realistic novel. Gorky, followed by Serafimovich and other writers create broad narrative canvases in which a realistic depiction of reality sounds like a call to remake it (Gorky’s Mother, for example). After October, the desire for broad epic forms became dominant in Soviet literature (Sholokhov, Fadeev, Panferov, A. N. Tolstoy, Leonov, Ehrenburg, Shaginyan, and others). But the genre of the novel itself is undergoing changes in connection with the new nature of reality. A classic example of a new novel is Gorky’s Life of Klim Samgin. Here is an artistic depiction of the events of forty years. Saturated with many images-types, this novel testifies to the new flowering of the genre. But this flourishing will apparently at the same time be a transformation of the novel as a genre. A new era with a new social self-awareness requires other genre forms.


The historical development of the novel in different European countries reveals rather large differences caused by the uneven socio-economic development and the individual uniqueness of the history of each country. But along with this, the history of the European novel includes some common, recurring features, which should be discussed. In all major European literatures, although each time in its own way, the novel goes through some definite and apparently natural stages. The novel originates in the fiction of the bourgeoisie in the era of the gradual disintegration of the feudal system and the rise of the commercial bourgeoisie. According to its artistic principle, this is a naturalistic novel, according to the thematic and compositional principle, it is adventurous. In varying degrees of dependence on it and in various chronological relationships, the development of an adventurous, but aristocratic novel, a novel in the style of “Classicism” takes place; in some countries this style of the novel does not show brightness and independence. In the era of the birth and development of industrial capitalism, the adventurous, naturalistic novel gradually loses its significance. It is replaced by the social novel, which arises and develops in the literature of those strata of capitalist society, that are the most advanced, and in the conditions of a given country. In a number of countries (France, Germany, Russia), during the period of replacement of the adventurous novel by the social, i.e., during the period of change of the feudal system by the capitalist, the psychological novel temporarily acquires great importance with a Romantic or sentimental orientation, reflecting the social imbalance of the transition period (Jean-Paul, Chateaubriand and others). The heyday of the social novel coincides with the period of growth and flourishing of industrial capitalist society (Balzac, Dickens, Flaubert, Zola, and others). This novel is created according to the realistic artistic principle. The gradual decay of capitalist society, its transition to the era of imperialism with its growing social conflicts lead to the degradation of bourgeois ideology. The cognitive level of bourgeois novelists is declining. In this regard, in the history of the novel there is a return to naturalism, to psychologism, a kind of decomposition of the novel, based on the inability of bourgeois writers to give a broad monumental picture of life, to grasp it in deep, leading contradictions (Joyce, Proust). In the process of its development, the novel, however, not only repeats a certain regular line, but also retains some genre features. The novel historically repeats itself in different literary styles, in different styles it expresses different artistic principles. And for all that, the novel still remains a novel: a huge number of the most diverse works of this genre have something in common, some repetitive features of content and form, which turn out to be signs of a genre that receives its classical expression in the bourgeois novel. No matter how different those features of historical class consciousness, those social moods, those specific artistic ideas that are reflected in novels, the novel expresses a certain type of self-consciousness, certain ideological needs and interests. The bourgeois novel lives and develops as long as the individualistic self-consciousness of the capitalist era is alive, as long as there continues to be an interest in individual fate, in personal life, in the struggle of individuality for their personal needs, for the right to life. These features of the content of the novel lead to the formal features of this genre. Thematically, the bourgeois novel depicts private, personal, everyday life and, against the background of it, the clash and struggle of personal interests. Its composition is characterized by a more or less complex, straight or broken line of a single personal intrigue, a single causal chain of events, a single course of narration, to which all sorts of descriptive components are subordinated. In all other respects the novel is historically infinitely diverse.