Short French Fiction: Essays on the Short Story in France in the Twentieth Century

Short French Fiction: Essays on the Short Story in France in the Twentieth Century

Short French Fiction: Essays on the Short Story in France in the Twentieth Century

Short French Fiction: Essays on the Short Story in France in the Twentieth Century

Excerpt

As historians of literature have widely recognized, the short story in France has a long and distinguished pedigree. Most critical studies devoted to it suggest as a starting point the earliest recorded collection, Les cent nouvelles nouvelles (1456–67), inspired in particular by the translation of Boccaccio’s Decameron which had appeared forty years earlier. But we might also think back beyond these stories to the medieval fabliaux and to the romances of writers like Chretien de Troyes for examples of fiction which already possessed that blend of narrative drive and focus which would become hallmarks of much traditional and successful short-story writing later. Surveys of the evolution of this particular form of fiction in France are sufficiently available to make any detailed account in the Introduction to a volume of this kind redundant; in particular, attention should be drawn to the excellent introduction by J. Gratton and B. Le Juez to their Modern French Short Fiction. Let us simply recall, however, that from that distant starting point nearly six centuries ago to the present there has been a multiplicity of changes in content, tone and style. Even before the short story came into its own around 1830, and came to rival other established forms of imaginative writing, it was a far from insignificant literary form. Within the constraints imposed by publishing, much short fiction enjoyed considerable success—the sentimental and moral tales in Marguerite de Navarre’s L’Heptaméron (1558–9), the longer, more complex stories of love and court society in the seventeenth century . . .

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