To tell a tale-7

-Chandra Latha



After examining the different definitions of narratology, an attempt is made to list out the various narrative techniques with respect to the aspects such as narrator, theme, characters, plot, setting, time, the use of imagery, history, cultural, social, economic, narrative modes, narrative styles, narrative tones and so on. All the five selected novelists are master crafts-men, who perfected their art of narration, by experimenting, invoking, absorbing and assimilating many narrative techniques unique to themselves and their cultures. These novelists enriched the narrative skill of the novel. Their innovative techniques and artistic skills influenced the generations of writers. 

         E.M. Foster rightly observed, “Since the novelist is himself a human being, there is an affinity between him and his subject matter which is absent in other forms of art.”   (E.M. Foster. Aspects of the novel, The Clarks Lectures, Trinity College of the University of Cambridge, Penguin Books, 1980. Pg.24)

  The different narrative techniques adopted by the novelist are deeply rooted in the novelist’s personal life and in his personality. Sometimes, these expressions of the novelists are conscious efforts and at times, subconscious.  The biographical approach helps the reader to understood the novel in a better way and to connect to the matrix of narrative.

      The language plays the role of a medium of expression in any narrative but, every language is culturally deep- rooted in its country and its people. Sometimes it may be acquired, some other times assimilated. Interestingly, the selected novels are originally written in four different languages namely, Telugu, German, Spanish and Italian, and then, translated into English .Hence, this study opens up to a varied and rich linguistic domain. This will give a scope to explore the diversity of the theme and the narrative. 

        Among the selected novels of four different languages, Telugu is the latest to adapt novel as a genre with the influence of western novel. 

   With an inspiration from Oliver Goldsmith’s The Vicar of Wakefied, Kandukuri Veeresalingam published his first novel Rajasekhara charitramu in 1878.

    Even though literary historians trace the features of the novel, in few other prose writings earlier than this novel, Rajashekhara Charithramu became “a model for the later Telugu Novels” observes eminent literary critic  C.Vijaya Sri,  Early novels of India. (C.Vijaya Sree. The Birth of a Genre: Telugu Novel in the nineteenth Century, Early Novels in India. Edited by Meenakshi Mukherjee. Sahitya Akademi. 2002. Pg.109)

The influence of this novel is not only on the narrative style but also, on the dialogical standard which this novel set between the novel with its immediate social structures. Both the selected Telugu novels have reflected the strata and style of the early novels and also expressed their unique treatment of the narrative structure and style. Gopichand assimilates his contemporary technical narrative skills unique to films, like montage, into the novel. G.V.Krishna Rao blends Indian aesthetics with European novelistic narrative and the narrative tone is brilliantly set in the novel.  Both these Telugu novels became trend setting works in the Telugu novel. 

         In Germany, the term Novelle was still associated with the Renaissance novella. In Germany, the novel began to be established by the end of the 18th century. Goethe’s Buildindsunroman i.e, Wilhem Meist, (1795-6) and ers Lehrjahre Wilhem Meisters Wanderjahre order Die entsagenden (1821) inspired German novel and novelists that followed him were quite actively innovative in developing the form. In 20th century the most influential German novelist is Thomas Mann and Franz Kafka, the Czeck novelist who wrote in German. The noble laureate Gunter Grass stands ahead and apart with his unique treatment of the theme and form of war in his unique novel The Tin Drum. This novel is the first of its kind that focuses on German consciousness and war guilt.

     Spanish novel was ahead of the Europe in the development of the novelistic narrative. At the very beginning of the 14th century, a novel called El caballero Cifar (Zifar) probably written by Ferrand Martinez. The significant Spanish novel that influenced and defined the genre of novel itself by satirizing chivalry and number of early romances and novels is the picaresque novel Don Quixote de la Mancha (1607) by Cervantes. After falling into a desuetude in the 17th century, the Spanish novel revived by the prominent Spanish novelists like Peroz Galdos who published a sequence of forty six historical novels is often compared with Balzac, Dickens and later, inspired by Maupassant and Zola and their theories of naturalism, Vincent Blasco Ibanez published important Spanish novels. A number of Latin American novelists have received worldwide fame and name with their distinctive works. The best known and spectacular successful novelist among them is the noble laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez, whose novel One Hundred Years of Solitude is under this study. Marquez’s influence on the genre of novel is immense. His magic realism left a great global impact on novelistic narrative that followed.  

        The name, novel, is derived from the Italian novella, “tale piece of news”. (J.A.Cudden, Pg.560) Novel in general and Italian novel in particular got the clarity as the genre after the publication of Decameron of Boccaccio (1349-51), which had great influence on Chaucer and many others. There was a trend of publishing collections of novelle or short stories in 14th century. In 16th century, Bandello published “Le Novelle” following the form of Boccassio. These short stories were extremely important because they were prose narratives and the development of characters and the creations were forerunners of the genre of the modern novel. Until 14th century the literature of entertainment was confined to narrative verse.  By the end of 17th century, the verse narrative is replaced by prose narrative.  Thus, Italian novella played a very significant role in evolution of novel as a significant genre. Among the 20th century Italian novelists, Sardinian and Sicilian novelists achieved world-wide repute.  Piradello, Italo Svevo, Fogazzaro, Ignazio Silone Alberto Moravia to mention a few. Umberto Eco published his first novel, The Name of the Rose in 1980.  The novel understudy is set in the war time Italy and the elaborately illustrated novel, The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, sets new standards with its unique narrative techniques.

        Each of these selected novels evolves as every reading opens up new arenas like geographical, socio-political, economical, historical, psychological, ideological, linguistic and cultural point of view. This diversity in language, themes and narratives gives a chance to explore and experience the inherent universality.          

     The scope of this research is to study the craft of narratology in the genre of novel. The narrative craft used in the selected novels has been examined in detail. This thesis is divided into seven chapters.  

     In this introductory Chapter I, “Narratology and Novel: Introduction”, the concept of narratology, the rise of the novel are discussed.      

     In the second chapter, “Falling From the Peak: The Bungler,” the narrative techniques in, The Bungler (1946), a Telugu Novel by Gopichand, translated by D.S.Rao (2003) is analyzed. The Bungler is popular as the first psycho-analytical novel in the Telugu .This study includes various aspects of psycho–analytical   features presented   by the author in the portrayal of the main character, Sita Rama Rao, and the people connected with him.

       In the  third  chapter, “A Cup of Brewed Coffee : Puppets, various narrative techniques used in the novel , Puppets (1951), a Telugu Novel  by G. V. Krishna Rao, translated into English by D. Kesava Rao (1997) are explored.

       In the fourth chapter, “The Shattered Glass: The Tin Drum”, Gunter Grass’s  narrative strategy which is a unique combination of Symbolism, Surrealism, and his signature style of Magic Realism in his German Novel, The Tin Drum (1959), translated by Ralph Manheim (1961)  is discussed. The Tin Drum is the first of Grass’s Danzig Trilogy, which brilliantly combines different narrative styles.

         In the fifth chapter, “To Tell a Tale: One Hundred Years of Solitude”, the magic of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred years of Solitude (1967), a Spanish novel, translated by Gregory Rabassa (1970) is discussed. One Hundred years of Solitude seldom needs an introduction as it is widely read and acknowledged as a pioneering work in which the use of magic realism is at its best. 

         The sixth chapter , “The Tip of the Flame:  The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana” is the narratological study of  Umberto Eco’s  Italian novel, The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana (2004 ), translated by Geoffrey Brock (2005) is done.  The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana is a mystery chasing the memory line of the protagonist almost his six decades of the life with the silent portrayal of the fascist and post–fascist Italy.

       The seventh Chapter, “The Narrative of Life: Conclusion”, the narratological techniques and features of the five chosen novelists are compared and the findings of the prior chapters is summed up.         

        The survey of the literature is made and the following books and many more are referred to study the concepts of narratology. Narratology: A Guide to the Theory of Narrative by Jahn, Manfred, “Narratology.” by Cobley, Paul The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism, Grammaire du Décaméron by Tzvetan Todorov, Morphology of the Folktale by Valdamore Propp, “Structuralism and Semiotics by Terence Hawkes, The Novel Today: A Critical Guide to the British Novel, 1970-1989 – (1990) by Allen Massie, The Dialogical Imagination by M.M. Bhakthin and many other literature is studied. 

         The selected novels of this study are from various parts of the world. All these novelists have a common feature of dealing with post-war scenario in their countries. And, all of them have the vision of re-building their respective nations. And, their novels played a historical role in their respective cultures and inspired generations to come. As these experiences are phenomenal, these novels have the universality, beyond their ethnicity, cultures, nations and boundaries. 

     All these novelists had serious motif of analyzing, synchronizing and motivating their own countries. Their strong appeal to their cultures with deepest vision of greater common good, sincere effort for change, makes them refreshingly fresh and new. These novels attained the universality for being representatives of respective cultures. Though these novelists thought locally, their literary merits inspired globally.

    The two Telugu novels and the Spanish novel are reflections of Post-colonial challenges that their nations faced.  And, the German and Italian novels are rebuilding   Post–World war nations.

     All these novelists absorbed different narrative techniques existing in their respective cultures, knit up with their contemporary arts, assimilated different thoughts, explored various schools of expressions.

      All the five novels have an important common point. They are the narratives of the societies, wounded and healing. The selected novelists have left deeper impact on the generations that followed them. Thus, they are the path-breakers in thought and they have mastered the craftsmanship and the art of narration which enriched the narrative culture of the genre of the novel.

Works Cited :

  1. J.A.Cuddon. Dictionary of Literary terms and Literary Theory .Penguin.1998 edition. Page 533.
  2. Jahn,Manfred. 2005. Narratology: A Guide to the Theory of Narrative. English Department, University of Cologne. ( pppn. htm)
  3. Cobley,Paul. “Narratology” The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, Web.
  4. Tzvetan Todorov, Grammaire du Décaméron, (1969). Published by Mouton & Co., The Hague Paris, 1969
  5. Valdamore Propp (Morphology of the Folktale, 1928).
  6. Terence Hawkes “Structuralism and Semiotics (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977, p. 89).
  7. Allen Massie, The Novel Today: A Critical Guide to the British Novel, 1970-1989-(1990).
  8. Narrative constitution: 
  9. Velcheru Narayana Rao and David Shulman :  Sound of the Kiss, or the Story that Must Never be Told: Translation of the sixteenth century Telugu Novel in verse, Kalapurnodayamu of Pinglai Surana, with an Afterword. New York: Columbia University press.2003.
  10. M.M. Bhakthin, The Dialogical Imagination, 2006,University of Texas Press.
  11. Ronald Barthes, 1957: Mythologies; Seuil, Paril Readerly Text/Writerly texts           
  12. Vladímir Propp, Morphology of the Folk Tale, 1928 Translation ©1968, The American Folklore Society and Indiana University ~alberti/Mm10/doc/propp.pdf
  13. Joseph Campbell ,
  15. Derrida
  16. Jacques Derrida (‘Living On – Border Lines’ in Deconstruction and Criticism (NY: Seabury Press, edited by Harold Bloom et. al, 1979) is also critical of the logocentric hierarchic ordering of Sjuzhet and Fabula. He raises the question, “What if there are story ways of telling as well as narrative ways of telling? And if so, how is it that narrative in the American-European tradition has become privileged over story?” One answer is that narrative is both Sjuzhet (emplotment) and a subjection of Fabula (the stuff of story, represented through narrative). For example, Derrida views narrative as having a terrible.
  17.  Jonathan Culler.The Pursuit of Signs: Semiotics, Literature, Deconstruction (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. 1981. 170-172) Nugali/English%20461/Structuralist%20theories.pdf
  19. Cognitive Narratology : David Herman Published: September 2000-18 14:48:59

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  1. Narrative Theory and the Cognitive Sciences  CSLI Publications   Issue 158 of CSLI lecture notes , Author :David Herman , CSLI Publications, 2003
  3. Aspects of the Novel – Page 70 – Google Books Result https:// books? isbn=0795311567.
  4. E. M. Forster – 2010 – ‎Literary Criticism
  10. The Birth of a Genre: Telugu Novel in the nineteenth Century by C.Vijaya Sree , Early Novels in India,  Edited by Meenakshi Mukherjee ,Sahitya Akademi, 2002 ISBN 81-260-1342-7
  11. The Truth about Stories: A Native  narrative, Thomas King,
  12. Narrative Grammar: Units and Levels A.J. Greimas, MLN, Vol. 86, No. 6, Comparative Literature (Dec., 1971), pp.793-806 Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press DOI: 10.2307/2907443 Stable URL: http://www.jstor. org/stable/ 2907443 Page Count: 14
  13. We seem as a species to be driven by a desire to make meanings: above all, we are surely Homo significance – meaning-makers. Distinctively, we make meanings through our creation and interpretation of ‘signs’.



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