Wednesday, June 4, 2008

History of the Short Story: A Reading List

The Encyclopedia Britannica includes an overview of the short story that covers the history of the form, and I gleaned quite a few must-read authors from the article by Arlen J. Hansen. In addition to the writers you would expect to find discussed, such as Poe (shown here), the following writers were important to the short story form, and these are writers that I have not read or read so long ago that they merit re-visiting: Hawthorne, E.T.A. Hoffmann, Heinrich von Kleist, Prosper Mérimée, Goethe, Ludwig Tieck, G.W. Cable (an American who is news to me), Bret Harte, Sarah Orne Jewett, Washington Irving, Charles Nodier, Gérard de Nerval, Alphonse Daudet, Guy de Maupassant, Ivan Krylov, Aleksandr Pushkin, Nikolay Gogol, Mikhail Lermontov, Ivan Turgenev, Luigi Pirandello (didn't know he wrote anything besides plays), Paul Morand, Katherine Anne Porter (at last a woman), Donald Barthelme . This is the short list, which omits short story writers named in the article but whom I've read in the past few years.

The article surveys not just short stories, but story in its early forms, starting with the earliest Babylonian tales, Egyptian and Indian tales, Hebrew narratives, then stories of the Greeks and Romans, medieval Europeans, and the 16th Century Italians who enthusiastically embraced the short fiction form. I was not aware that Miguel de Cervantes had written short fiction (“Exemplary Novels”, 1613). Some of these works we would call today novellas, rather than short stories, but they all preceded the novel.

Perhaps my short story / short fiction reading list, for years to come, will introduce some other readers to unexplored writers. Recommendations for short story anthologies containing some of these European writers would be most welcome. Any favorite writers among those listed above? Once the Britannica article moved beyond ancient times, non-Western stories are ignored, and I am curious about the development of the short story form outside of Europe and the United States. Suggestions, anyone, of non-Western short fiction writers of, say, the Nineteenth Century, who are available in English translation?

This is cross-posted at Historical / Present, where there is a free link to the Encyclopedia Britannica article on the Short Story.

1 comment:

Terry Finley said...

Great info...thanks.

Terry Finley