8 junio, 2024

Origin of the novel: history from its beginnings

He origin of the novel as we know it today dates from the 11th century, in Japan. It was there that the first text that complies with the basic characteristics of this genre was written. The work is called Genji’s story and its author was Murasaki Shikibu.

Now, a millennium before and in Greece, Homer already took the first steps in the formation of this literary genre. He did it with his works The Iliad and The odyssey in the seventh century to. c. Although they were epic works written in verse, they already contained rich fictional narrative nuances.

After this we can find the satiricon of Petronius, a work of the first century AD. C. Likewise, in the 2nd century we can name Daphnis and Chloe from the Greek author Longus. Much has evolved from that time to modernity, from the original romance novels to the various subgenres of today.

Below is an order of the periods, novels and prominent authors of this literary genre.

origin of the novel

Eleventh century

It is difficult to define which genres were present in ancient times to give rise to what is now known as a novel. Some say that they were extensive everyday stories to which fantastic details were added to entertain.

It is distinguished as the oldest novel to the famous Japanese piece Genji Monogatariwritten in the year 1000 by Murasaki Shikibue.

XII century

Between the years 1130 and 1136, the monk Godfrey of Monmouth of Welsh origin wrote the work called History Regum Britanniae. This was written in Latin and is considered a valuable work of medieval literature.

Thanks to this manuscript, many authors were inspired, among them the French Chrétien de Troyes, to whom the novel was later owed. Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart. This work was done at the request of Marie de Champagne.

13th century

At the beginning of this time the group of novels of the Arthurian Vulgate, which told the stories of Lanzarote and the Holy Grail. These were later edited and expanded thanks to the creation of paper, a material that at that time was much cheaper than parchment.

XIV century

In these years the writers Boccaccio and Chaucer stood out with their works The Decameron and the canterbury tales, respectively. The first was composed of several stories that included some novels. For its part, the second contained various stories written in verse and some in prose.

XV century

In this century the Middle Ages culminate. At that time, sentimental and chivalrous novels originated. Outstanding in those years was the work jail of love of Diego de San Pedro. Likewise, the Libros de caballerías gained popularity. Among these may be named the famous prose novel Amadís de Gaula.

Century XVI

In this period there was a great change in the commercialization of the novel due to the implementation of the printing press. Collections of these works were made with endless stories and allowed this genre to evolve. Authors such as Machiavelli stand out.

The pastoral novel was popularized in this century. It is an epic narrative subgenre that combined romance with a rustic natural setting. The work that started this type was the arcadian by Sannazaro, it was translated into English and Portuguese.

In 1554, the picaresque novel originated, which caused a reversal in the genre by touching totally innovative themes. It came to show various contrasts on values ​​in social classes, without giving prominence to heroes or knights.

The first Spanish work of this subgenre was Life of Lazarillo de Tormes and his fortunes and adversitiesby anonymous author.

Novel as a literary genre

In the years 1600 and 1700, the modern novel, already considered as a literary genre, began. One of the representative works of this period is Don Quijote of La Mancha of the Spanish novelist Miguel de Cervantes. This had an episodic structure, as well as being totally anti-heroes and very realistic.

The scandal

At the end of the 17th century, a taste for novels containing scandals began to emerge. These did not have any censorship and were made in the Netherlands, to be later sent to a large part of Europe. The authors placed fictitious characters and claimed that they wanted to give moral lessons with these works.

At this time, comics newspapers began, where letters with various stories were made. From there comes the epistolary novel, in which the characters do not have direct dialogues, but communicate through letters.


Several genres other than scandal arose in this period. In Germany, the bildungsroman (formation novel), which dealt with the development of a person. Some time later, and towards the end of the 18th century, the Gothic novel was created. A subgenre originated in England and with a horror plot.

XIX century

The 19th century was a decisive time for the novel as a literary genre, thanks to the arrival of realism. At this time, romantic works such as Paris of Victor Hugo. Already entering the development of realism, great writers such as Sthendal, Lewis Carroll and Dostoevsky also appear.

Other subgenres of the novel also originated in the 19th century, including science fiction and police. For their part, authors such as Romain Rolland opted for the psychological novel.

Likewise, another variant that had a great boom at the end of this century was that of the historical novel. One of its main exponents was Walter Scott.

Twentieth century

Much has been the development of this literary genre before reaching this time. In this century, the novel is already seen as a global genre in which various themes can be touched on. One of the most prominent was the existentialist novel, which was influenced by modernism and humanism.

Also, at this time the short novel was generated, which had a grotesque and dark content. An outstanding author of that time was Franz Kafka, with his emblematic works: The process and Metamorphosis.

In addition to this, for the years 1960 to 1970 the so-called «Latin American boom» was generated, where great writers stood out. This commotion began when a group of works by these young authors were distributed throughout Europe. The most prominent are: Gabriel García Márquez, Julio Cortázar, Mario Vargas Llosa and Carlos Fuentes.


History of the novel. (2020). Spain: Wikipedia. Recovered from: es.wikipedia.org.
History of the novel. (2015). (N/A): How to write well. Recovered from: comoescribirbien.com.
Origin and evolution of the novel until the eighteenth century. (2015). (N/A): The Basque newspaper. Retrieved from: blogs.diariovasco.com.
The origin of the novel (2012). (N/A): Notes on Spanish literature. Recovered from: pedeapuntes.blogspot.com.
The origins and evolution of the novel. (2014). (N/A): The guide. Retrieved from: lengua.laguia2000.com.

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