Are Novels Still Alive?


Have novels become obsolete? Is it an outdated form without a future? Why are young authors not attracted to it? Sandro Veronesi, a celebrated Italian novelist, essayist and journalist, has been looking for answers.

The author of five novels and laureate of numerous literary awards, known to Czech readers, among other, for his book Il colibri published by Odeon as Kolibřík, certainly knows what he is talking about when he says that novels are a difficult yet beautiful field. His experience is first-hand. According to Veronesi, the feeling of having mastered the art and emerging victorious is without an equal. However, young authors do not exactly embrace the form, despite the fact that they can use computers, which makes writing much easier than it used to be. "I started writing on a typewriter, when I really had to ponder each word carefully. You couldn't simply erase it like you can now. It taught me to work with words, to think about them. It wasn't easy but it had its charm. I'm happy that my writing was formed back in those days," Sandro said. He also recalled that in the days when writers wrote by hand and would then do the editing, these proof sheets would also sometimes be printed. They were a work of art in their own right. "Today, words are free, we can change everything just like that, but has writing become any better? I'm not sure. If someone offered me to be born a few years later, into the computer era, I would say no. I don't envy my younger colleagues, because they missed the end of the century, which was beautiful, with some outstanding authors and creative atmosphere. They didn't get to meet, among other, Alberto Moravia. I'm happy to have experienced novel's golden age." Veronesi also offered his take on the history of the novel in Italy. "We only had a handful of great novelists. We have a rich tradition of prose and poetry, but not that many novelists. We have some great authors who actually refused to write novels. But above all this looms Alberto Moravia, the outstanding representative of the tradition of the novel." Even though Moravia was an idol for the Italians, in the sixties Italy's writers held a serious discussion about getting rid of the novel for its obsolescence. "It's interesting to note that in, say, South America, no such crisis of the novel was ever experienced. It was the time of Gabriel García Márquez or Mario Vargas Llosa, who proved that novels can be fresh and modern. They were very good at it," he explained. "I mean, novel cannot just be discontinued, it is a monument of sorts," he added, saying that the genre certainly does not belong in the past. His own critically acclaimed novels, which are also widely read, are a proof of that. "All you have to do is figure out how to write a novel. Getting rid of it altogether would amount to sabotage. I personally consider novels to be the highest form of prose. It has by no means outlived itself. As long as writers keep coming up with great novels, the genre will live. And yes, it is not an easy undertaking - writing a good novel can take between three to four years - but I dare say that in the end it's worth it, that it is a true work of art. A truly royal art!"