Winter 1969 • Vol. XXXI No. 1 The International Symposium on the Short Story, Part Two |


All literary forms have to some extent to be defined by negatives: drama is a way of telling a story that is not narrative, etc. This seems to me particularly so in the case of the short story, which did not come into its full power until after the rise of the novel. Such a judgment may seem odd in view of the presence in our tradition of so many masterpieces in short narrative form, down through the ages from the Old Testament through mediaeval literature to a master of the anecdote like Boccaccio. But to be a story and to be short does not quite make a "short story" in our modern sense; it really is a new genre, born in the nineteenth century and very quickly growing to maturity well before that century ended, and it defines itself against the novel; within the area of modern fiction, the short-story writer does those things that the novelist does not do. It sounds like a paradox, but is in fact the most sober statement of the matter that I can arrive at, to say that the shortness

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