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A novella ( Latin novus 'new', Italian novella 'news') is a shorter story (see also short epic ) in prose form . As a genre, it is difficult to define and often only delimited ex negatively from other types of text . Regarding the length, Hugo Aust remarked that the novella was often of medium length, which was shown by the fact that it could be read in one go. The term novella indicates a novelty as the central subject of the genre. Giovanni Boccaccio is considered to be the founder of the novella tradition, which goes back to the Italian Renaissance , because of the Decameron he wrote ('Tenth Day Work').

The German word Novelle and the English word novel as well as the Spanish word novela are false friends . Novel and novela describe a novel , not a novella. The prose form, known as novella in German , is called novella or novelette in English, and novela corta in Spanish .

The short novel , i.e. a prose text that briefly describes a novel-like material, or a novella with features of the novel , is an intermediate form of novel and novella that cannot be more precisely delimited .

Characteristics of the novella as a literary genre


A novella is a short to medium length short story . Often a conflict between chaos and order is described, which leads to a breach of norms and uniqueness. As a rule, a single event is narrated, hence the expression that the novella is committed to singularity. Novellas are usually very clearly structured and have a closed form. The novella often has a leitmotif and a thing symbol . In many novels, chance has a central meaning and is often the constituent element.

In a conversation with Johann Peter Eckermann in 1827, Goethe formulated "an unheard of occurrence" as an essential feature of the novella. Goethe's novella speaks of a "strange, unheard-of event". This incident often represents the turning point of the plot. According to Fritz Martini , however, in the 19th century the focus shifted away from the unexpected, puzzling fact and towards the "psychologically special character, his inner mental movement and his skill". Often the protagonists then suffer from isolation, exclusion or a lack of communication.

Further characteristics of the novella are a tight, predominantly linear storyline, the change between a highly demanding storyline and the targeted use of scenic and broader parts at the climax and turning points ( peripetia ), while the story ends at the end and the future of the characters is only hinted at. Predictive and integration techniques such as leitmotifs, thing symbols, the dominance of events and the embedding of the main plot in a framework are typical.

Differentiation between drama and short story

Theodor Storm wrote that the novella was "the sister of drama " because of its composed and structured structure . Due to the brevity of novellas, there is usually only a brief exposition that guides the reader directly into the action. In contrast to the short story , a consistent formulation of the central conflict, a tendency towards a closed form, a dialogical character and a high density are typical for the novella. Novella research has shown that the novella can often be interpreted symbolically and condensed facts and thus - according to Goethe - creates an "unpredictable space of meaning".

Novella theory according to Heyse ("falcon theory")

In connection with the novella, the “falcon theory” formulated by Paul Heyse is regularly cited, which names the categories of silhouette (concentration on the basic motif in the course of the plot) and falcon ( thing symbol for the respective problem of the novella) as typical of the novella. Heyse leads his Falk theory based on Boccaccio Falk amendment from the Decameron (ninth novella of the fifth day), but declares it the character of novelistic literature only fragmentary and ambiguous, especially because he has selected amendment not typical of the stories of the Decameron is.

Examples of novellas

Novel writing reached its peak in German literature in the 19th century, especially among authors who can be assigned to poetic realism . Well-known authors of novellas in German literature are, for example, Heinrich von Kleist , Conrad Ferdinand Meyer , Eduard Mörike , Theodor Storm , Paul Heyse , Gottfried Keller , Theodor Fontane , Gerhart Hauptmann , Stefan Zweig , Georg Büchner , Annette von Droste-Hülshoff , Thomas Mann , Wilhelm Raabe , Ludwig Tieck and now Hartmut Lange , Patrick Roth and Uwe Timm .

Well-known German-language novellas are for example:

Publishing year title author
1807 The earthquake in Chili Heinrich von Kleist
1810 Michael Kohlhaas Heinrich von Kleist
1818 The marble picture Joseph von Eichendorff
1821 The Miss von Scuderi ETA Hoffmann
1827 Jud Suss Wilhelm Hauff
1828 Novella Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
1842 The Jewish beech Annette von Droste-Hülshoff
1842 The black spider Jeremias Gotthelf
1856 Mozart on the trip to Prague Eduard Mörike
1856 Romeo and Juliet in the village Gottfried Keller
1874 Clothes make the man Gottfried Keller
1878 The shot from the pulpit Conrad Ferdinand Meyer
1885 Under the pear tree Theodor Fontane
1887 Railway attendant Thiel Gerhart Hauptmann
1888 The Pale Rider Theodor Storm
1900 Lieutenant Gustl Arthur Schnitzler
1902 Kostitz Castle Ferdinand of Saar
1911 The death in venice Thomas Mann
1923 The gold of Caxamalca Jacob Wassermann
1925 Dream novel Arthur Schnitzler
1930 Mario and the wizard Thomas Mann
1936 The Baron Bagge Alexander Lernet-Holenia
1942 Chess novella Stefan Zweig
1961 cat and mouse Günter Grass
1978 A fleeing horse Martin Walser
1987 The Dove Patrick Süskind
1991 Riverside. Christ novella Patrick Roth
1993 The discovery of the currywurst Uwe Timm
2002 In the crab Günter Grass

Special forms


  • Hugo Aust: Novella . 4th, updated and expanded edition. Metzler, Stuttgart 2006, ISBN 3-476-14256-6 (first edition: 1990).
  • Thomas Degering: Brief history of the novella . From Boccaccio to the present, poets, texts, analyzes, data. In: Uni-Taschenbücher UTB 1798 . Fink, Stuttgart 1994, ISBN 3-8252-1798-1 .
  • Winfried Freund : Novelle (=  Reclams Universal Library No. 17607 ). Extended and bibliographically supplemented edition. Reclam, Stuttgart 2009, ISBN 978-3-15-017607-8 .
  • Rolf Füllmann: Introduction to the novella. Annotated bibliography and person index. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2010, ISBN 978-3-534-21599-7 .
  • Hellmuth Himmel : History of the German Novella. Bern 1963.
  • Josef Kunz (ed.): Novelle (=  ways of research . Volume 55 ). 2nd, significantly improved and changed edition. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 1973, ISBN 3-534-02810-4 .
  • Fritz Lockemann: Shape and Change of the German Novella. History of a literary genre in the 19th – 20th centuries Century. Munich 1957.
  • Wolfgang Rath: The novella . Concept and history (=  Uni-Taschenbücher UTB 2122 ). 2nd, revised and updated edition. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2008, ISBN 978-3-8252-2122-5 .
  • Branka Schaller-Fornoff: Novella and Excitement . for a new perspective on the genre using the example of Michael Kleeberg's "Barefoot". Olms, Hildesheim / New York NY 2008, ISBN 978-3-487-13602-8 .
  • Hannelore Schlaffer : Poetics of the Novella . Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 1993, ISBN 3-476-00957-2 .
  • Winfried Wehle: Storytelling . French (and Italian) Renaissance novellism as a discourse. 2nd, corrected edition. Fink, Munich 1984, ISBN 3-7705-2230-3 ( [PDF]).
  • Winfried Wehle , Horst Thomé: Novelle. In: Klaus Weimar, Harald Fricke, Jan-Dirk Müller (eds.): Reallexikon der Deutschen Literaturwissenschaft. Volume 2: HO. Berlin / New York 2000, pp. 725-731 ( [PDF]).
  • Benno von Wiese : The German novella from Goethe to Kafka . Part 1 and 2 (1956–1962). Bagel, Düsseldorf, DNB  455521719 .
  • Benno von Wiese: Novelle (=  Metzler Collection ). 8th, revised edition. Metzler, Stuttgart 1982, ISBN 3-476-18027-1 .

Web links

Wikiquote: Novella  - Quotes
Wiktionary: Novelle  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Gero von Wilpert : Subject dictionary of literature. 8th edition. Kröner, Stuttgart 2013, ISBN 978-3-520-84601-3 , p. 447.
  2. ^ Fritz Martini: The German novella in 'Bürgerliche Realismus'. Considerations for the historical determination of the form type. In: Josef Kunz (Ed.): Novelle. 2nd Edition. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 1973, p. 371.
  3. Paul Heyse, Hermann Kurz (Ed.): German Novell Treasure . tape 1 . Rudolph Oldenbourg, Munich, Introduction, p. V-XXIV, especially pp. XIX-XX (n.d. (1871)).