the unnovel

1414551660000 » Tagged as: novel , Tagged as: unnovel , Tagged as: un-novel , Tagged as: unfiction , Tagged as: unbook



Paul Lucian published his first unnovel (sometimes written un-novel) in 2003, titled, 'NineteenEightyFive'. It is the story of O'Bryan working as the Chief Inspector of the Thought Police under the Ministry of Truth. He had developed it based on George Orwell's 'Nineteen Eighty Four'. He was planning to write two more unnovels, NineteenEightySix and NineteenEightySeven, but I have not been able to find the books or confirm if they had been published.


Even Nicholas Mosely's Whitebread award winning 'Inventing God' was called an un-novel by Shiva Rahbaran. Goodreads has listed 48 books under Un-fiction, which include Haruki Murakami's 'What I Talk About When I Talk About Running'. Unfiction has been called "cerebral dualism that uses fringe language to transcend irony" according to the creator of Unbooks are considered to be digital books which get revised regularly, instead of keeping to the first print edition.


When Peter N. Poon wrote about 'Evolution of the Clonal Man: Inventing Science Unfiction', he "meant to convey the process by which scientific developments both shape and are shaped by the imaginative projections of the non-scientific community. The transformation of science fiction (conjecture) to nonfiction (actuality) is accomplished through this process that I refer to as 'Unfiction'."


'Project Checkerboard', is the un-novel written by Elliot R. Georges. It is described as a "public confession of Elliot R. Georges (Georges with a silent s) for a crime to be committed by the time you turn the last page. It is not a novel. It is not a memoir. It is a letter of sorts. Or a conversation. That’s better. It is a conversation between you and Elliot. So don’t come expecting a novel. But do come with your questions and your answers and your favorite bits of poetry."


The book starts with the statement "I did it. That is what you want to know. Did he or didn't he? He? See, you are already making assumptions. That's the problem with people. They always want to know. Can't stand uncertainty. They'd much rather believe something untrue than accept something unknowable. So which is it. He or She? Did She? Didn't He?" And till the end of the book, we do not know the answers. Perhaps that is why he/she has called it an unnovel.


David Markson's 'Vanishing Point' which has also been called an unnovel, is just a collection of disjointed index cards of an author collecting material to write a novel. Bruce Hutchison called his book, 'Love's Labors Lost: The Man Who was Shakespeare' as a novel. Yet critic B J Robbins calls it an 'unnovel novel' because it is about real people and facts, but with a lot of fiction thrown in.


New York Times called Kaavya Viswanathan's book 'How Opal Mehtha Got kissed....' as an unnovel because the author had later confessed copying passages from another writer. If we are to use the term un-novel for such plagiarized novels, then there could be many such un-novels coming out today. There could also be so many un-poems and un-short-stories.


The Oxford dictionary defines 'Novel' also as "A fictitious prose narrative of book length, typically representing character and action with some degree of realism." But this is a very vague definition, or an attempt to impose very rigid conditions on creative fiction, once again by attaching labels and trying to compartmentalize all creative arts. The 'book length' is not specified, which means we have to accept the UNESCO definition for a printed book, of not less than 49 pages. But why should a writer write more than 49 pages, if he could write his story in 4 pages or nine pages? Do we have to represent character in a novel, why can't we write about a tree or a rock? According to the Oxford definition many literary works could not be considered as novels, and the dictionary then should accept the term unnovel too.


The term unnovel is also used to mean that it is not novel, (from latin novus for new) in patent rights and sometimes even in copyright. In that sense, almost all modern writings could be unnovel, because there is nothing new anyone, anywhere could write today, which has not been written by someone, sometime in the past. We find several poems on the Sihigiri mirror-like wall, which are almost identical and could have been copied or using a sterner term, plagiarized. Then these poems could be considered as un-poems. We also find the term"his gi" which Prof. Paranavithana translated as 'empty poetry'. (# 492), but could be also un-poetry.


Some of our best Sinhala writings have also been considered un-novel by several critics and academics, probably because they could not understand and thus appreciate the writing, or because they were criticizing the books without even reading them. Mahagama Sekara's 'Rajathilaka, Lionel saha Priyantha' is a poem, but it is also a novel, which could be called a poetic novel, if we still want a label. Parakrama Kodituwakku is a poet turned novelist, through his 'Oba Samaga' and some judges for a novel award had refused to accept it as a novel. Sometimes the poet comes out strongly when they write a novel, like we find in 'Senkottan' by Mahinda Prasad Masimbula.


It is the writer's right to create a literary piece, without imprisoning himself within traditional standards and norms, and without even labeling his work as a novel, novella, short fiction, flash fiction, poem or short story. A writer should have the right to even call his writing as a painting. A reader has the right to appreciate and enjoy such literary work, without looking for a standard formula in the story, without considering it a novel or an unnovel.



comments powered by Disqus