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Does the novel really carry that much significance?

In a quiet house in a suburb of Mexico City, a young man in his twenties was on a date with one of the contemporary masters of literary art, and this young man had just published his first novel, which gave his speech some pride in front of the great writer, especially since he had just handed over a manuscript His second novel. The great writer was Gabriel García Márquez, the well-known Colombian writer, who expressed to the young man his surprise at the speed of his early career in this way, so that the young man surprised him with indifferent recklessness, saying: “You have to think a lot before you write, because the whole world What you will write is waiting for me, but I can write quickly because few people read me. “

Marquez says: “Then I understood, because this young man decided in advance to be a poor writer, as he was in reality, until he got a good job in a used car dealership, and after that he did not return to wasting his time writing.” In this context, he comments: “Writing a novel is like building bricks,” and he tells us that there is one thing for sure, which is that most people ask themselves, “How is a novel written ?!” They are the novelists themselves, and they offer themselves a different answer each time.

These writers are the ones who believe that literature is an art destined for the betterment of the world[1]Or, as Milan Kundera says, the novel has discovered “one after the other, in its own way, and with its own logic, the various aspects of existence,” and it is a form of resistance with which a person confronts what Heidegger calls “forgetting the being,” which drowns In it the modern age man after the forces of technology, politics and history have transformed it into something simple that can be owned[2].

From here we can ask: Does the novel really carry this significance? Can it be used in the intellectual and cognitive structure? Or were the waves downplaying it right? Does the sin of this understatement bear the shortcomings of art itself, or is it because of its vulgarity and insult by the likes of the young man who told us “Marquis” that the used car business was more important to him than he wrote?

“The novel is a colossal, shapeless mass.”

[إي. إم. فوستر، سمات الرواية]

In his book “What is the novel”, the Moroccan thinker “Tayeb Bouazza” tells us that the definitions of the novel are not only numerous, but rather they differ and vary; For the difference in the subject matter of the consideration itself; That is, the novel, which is expressed by Roger Allan – Professor of Arabic Literature at the University of “Pennsylvania” – when he says that the novel is a literary style that is constantly changing and changing, characterized by anxiety and does not settle.[3]As Mikhail Bakhtin sees it, it gets up.[4]To constantly research and constantly review its previous forms.

It is this constant revision of the novel that gives it such broad definitional flexibility. Because of its ability to “accommodate many narrative systems and productions that fall within its scope and are called by its name”[5]And its ability to “absorb all languages ​​and build on any structure of social or psychological reality.”[6]Which could “amount to a mess.”[7].

“What is the novel” book by Tayeb Bouazza

From this point of view, “Tayeb Bouazza” sees the possibility of trying to define the novel by what it contrasts and not with what it matches, that is, instead of asking “What is a novel?”, We can say “What is not a novel?” In this regard, we can define the novel as a literary form that arises. On a set of elements that can be deduced from its contradiction with other arts, the novel is not a poetic epic, and it is not a myth based on the supernatural and the miraculous, so even the fantasy novel is its clarity with human characters and events, and the myth is not attributed to a specific author unlike the novel, and neither is it history. Even if it is a historical novel, because it remains a figment of the imagination, not play because it is more concerned with narration than dialogue.

The novel, then, is an art that is different to all of this, and it collects it at the same time, as “Roger Allen” quotes from “Jabra Ibrahim Jabra”[8], The novel takes its main theme, which is the struggle of the individual with a force greater than him, from the traditions of tragedy, and takes topics such as the clash of the individual and society, betrayal, and chivalry … from the epic, and from life drama it takes portraying situations and emotions, and from theatrical art, it uses dialogue to embody the characters.

All this puts the novel in a broad definitional relativism, which made the Russian philosopher and literary theorist “Mikhail Bakhtin” define it as “the only sex that is in progress and is still incomplete”, so it “reflects in depth, intrinsic and more sensitive, and more quickly, the evolution of reality itself.” Reasoning that “only he who develops can understand a development.”[9]If the definitional diversity of some matters is seen as an impending dilemma, then this diversity of the novel gives it the flexibility it needs as much as life needs it.

“In the beginning was the narration”, thus “Tayeb Bouazza” guides us to the origin of the novel; Its ancient origin, which we do not notice in a specific year or action, but rather it is the story of life that is derived from its events. If there was “a literary genre that begins to form our consciousness and form the way we perceive ourselves and our existence, from our childhood and the beginning of our mental capabilities, then there is no doubt that it is the novel; since since Smallness inhabits us by that strange love of doing narration; we insist on those around us to tell, narrate and tell.[10].

So our question about what the novel is has drawn us to a study about its academic definition, which differs and contrasts between this and that, but this research may lead us to its emotional definition that “Ian White” explains.[11] When he says that during the past two hundred years, the majority of readers have not found the literary form that satisfies their desires, such as the novel, because it is the face closest to matching life and art.

The novel, in this sense, is a form of expression and reception by which the human being assumes life, and this is what Kundera agrees with[12] When he sees that the novel has questioned “with” Cervantes “what is the adventure, and began with” Samuel Richardson “to examine what is going on inside and to reveal the secret life of feelings, and discovered with” Balzac “the roots of man in history”, and probed with “Flaubert” the ground Until then it was unknown, the land of everyday life, and it worked with “Tolstoy” on irrational interference in human decisions and behavior. It investigates time: the past moment that cannot be caught with “Marcel Proust”, the present moment that was caught with “James” Joyce.

This is how – as “Boazza” sees[13]- There are many approaches to the human being approach thanks to the narrative narration in a way that surpasses the abstract philosophical approach. While preserving its pulse and vitality in events, people, times and places; So we can answer the question “Why the novel?” To say: Because it is life.

The French writer Michel Butor sees[14] The novel is a special form of the story, and the story is a phenomenon that goes beyond the field of literature; Being one of the basic components of our realization of the truth, we are surrounded by stories throughout our lives without interruption, and these stories overwhelm us from every aspect; From family traditions, from our exchanges around the dining table, at school, in meetings, in readings … However, the difference between the novel and the truth – he also adds – is that the novel is more interesting, not because it carries out focused work, and carries people who fill a void in the truth and explain it. To us, whether that fact is philosophical, moral, psychological, social, or otherwise.

Butor tells us that the characters of the novel will play this role very well, and we will get to know these people in our friends and acquaintances; This is because the external symbolism in the novel aims to be reflected in an internal symbolism, so what we read carries connotations that we actually know. These symbolism can be psychological by which we measure ourselves against the characters of the story, and they can be philosophical with many projections, as the farm of the animal “Goruj Uriel” was not strange to us, but it revealed ourselves to us in the presence of tyranny, and the blindness of “Jose Saramago” told us what is likely to be He has our lives if we lose our humanity and descend to the status of animals. These symbolism and these projections were – and are – familiar to us in books of philosophy and psychoanalysis, but they are not so much alive except in a novel.

In this context, Kundera sees[15] That if it is true that philosophy and science have forgotten the human being; It clearly shows that an art has taken upon itself to probe this forgotten being, and here the value of narrative narration appears in its ability to listen to and express the being, “as it lies in compensating for this essential deficiency in the cultural system caused by the scientific and philosophical systems.”[16].

This unique ability of the novel is what made “Butor” say that he necessarily became a novelist, and he explains this by saying: “I was doing philosophical studies, and in the meantime I compiled many poems … and my poetry was in many ways confused poetry, far from the mind. While I wanted, through these poems, to shed light on some ambiguous topics in philosophy … I found myself facing this difficulty interacting in myself, so how was the way to reconcile philosophy and poetry?

Philosophy, as Kundera saw, presents its ideas in an abstract space without personalities. Boazza believes that the position of the characters in the narrative body is just as pivotal as the location of concepts in the philosophical body. If philosophy is the manufacture of concepts, then the novel is the creation of characters. If some see the novel as a source of suspense and excitement, then there are distinct novels in the history of literature, in addition to its ability to thrill, “Butor” saw that it has the ability to change “the way we look at the world and the way we talk about it, and thus change the world itself.” “[17].

Michelle Butore

This is what can be called the wisdom of narration, with the term “Boazza,” which adds: “As a researcher in the field of philosophy, I admit that I have often learned from the novel what I did not learn from the books of“ Logos ”; And the complexity of its installation does not require only the theorems of “Wilhelm Font”, “Fincher”, “Freud and Young” …; It is also necessary to listen to the narrative narration, to “Dostoevsky”, “Galip Helsa”, “Samuel Richardson”, “Stendhal” and “Prost” … “[18].

Which brings us back to our first question: Is the novel really so important? We formulate our answer from all those sayings and visions, in simple systems that do not need much elaboration, to say: It appears that it is “yes”.



  1. Gabriel García Márquez, How do you write a novel?
  2. Milan Kundera, the art of fiction.
  3. Roger Allen, the Arabic novel.
  4. Mikhail Bakhtin, The Official Method of Literary Study.
  5. Tayeb Bouazza, the essence of the novel.
  6. The Novel … An Attempt in Topology, The Encyclopedia of Aversales 2008.
  7. Wayne Booth, Rhetoric in Fiction.
  8. Roger Allen, the Arabic novel.
  9. Mikhail Bakhtin, The Fictional Discourse.
  10. Tayeb Bouazza, the essence of the novel.
  11. Ian White, the appearance of the novel.
  12. Milan Kundera, the art of fiction.
  13. Tayeb Bouazza, the essence of the novel.
  14. Michel Butor, Research in the Modern Novel.
  15. Milan Kundera, the art of fiction.
  16. Tayeb Bouazza, the essence of the novel.
  17. Michel Butor, Research in the Modern Novel.
  18. Tayeb Bouazza, the essence of the novel.

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