The Titanic Piles of Words which Dread the Readers, 5 Longest Novels

A lot book we read are up to some pages, may be some hundreds, and we can afford to read those books again. But here are some books which require a major feat of concentration. It’s hard to think about reading these monsters of prose again. Here are the 5 longest novels; the titans of text.

5. Clarissa, or, the History of a Young Lady by Samuel Richardson

Clarissa, or, the History of a Young Lady is an epistolary novel by Samuel Richardson, published in 1748. It tells the tragic story of a heroine whose quest for virtue is continually thwarted by her family and is regarded as one of the longest novels in the English language (based on estimated word count). It is generally regarded as Richardson's masterpiece. The estimated word count is 984,870. On the surface, it may resemble a Regency-era comedy of manners – a family trying to break into the nobility through advantageous marriages – but it pre-dates the genteel Austen novels and actually has quite a dark side, with the title character being kidnapped and raped before dying of an unspecified disease (tragic heroines often did that in the 18th and 19th centuries). It was named as one of the 100 best novels of all time, and many people have sung its praises, including Samuel Johnson, who called it “the first book in the world for the knowledge it displays of the human heart.” A long and involved read, but apparently a good one.

4. Min Kamp by Adolf Hitler

Mein Kampf is a 1925 autobiographical book by Nazi Party leader Adolf Hitler. The work describes the process by which Hitler became anti-semitic and outlines his political ideology and future plans for Germany. The title of this Norwegian book may look familiar, and that’s deliberate – it’s the Norwegian for “Mein Kampf”, which he wrote while in prison. Published in six volumes between 2009 and 2011, they were autobiographical novels which revealed details of author Karl Ove Knausgård’s life and family, not always in a flattering way. His ex-wife, Tonje Aursland, was particularly annoyed by his portrayal of her and has given interviews to try and repair her reputation. It’s lost him friends, but won him fame with the million-word novel selling 450,000 copies in Norway – around one copy for every 10 people in the country. He may have documented his struggle, but he isn’t struggling any more.

3. Zettels Traum by Arno Schmidt

The German novel of 1970  by Arno Schmidt is also a pile of pages. He began writing it whilst translating the works of Edgar Allan Poe into German, and it’s all about a man who is translating the works of Edgar Allan Poe into German. The novel takes place at 4AM in the Lüneburg Heath in Germany, and the main character is called Daniel Pagenstecher. For over ten years, Schmidt filled 130,000 Zettel (index cards) with information. It took him four years to transform Zettel’s Traum into a narrative of twenty-five hours in the life of the main characters of the text, Daniel Pagenstecher, usually called Dan, Paul Jacobi and his wife Wilma, and their teenage daughter Franziska. It’s arranged in three columns, which sometimes include collages, and the total word count is around 1,100,000, making it the longest novel ever to be written in one volume. It’s also fairly abstract, which makes it a challenging read, inspired by the equally obtuse “Finnegan’s Wake”.

2. À la recherche du temps perdu by Marcel Proust

It is also a French novel, starting with this 7-volume epic by Marcel Proust. It is translated variously as “Remembrance of Things Past” and the more literal “In Search of Lost Time” and it has been available in English as long as it has been French – both were first published between 1922 and 1930. The novel has many complex themes, but the recurring one is that of involuntary memory – the way that a taste or a smell revives memories previously buried. It follows the life of the narrator in a long and rambling way, as he learns about love and art. There are strong homosexual overtones, with one volume entitled “Sodom and Gomorrah”, in reference to sodomy (Proust was gay but not openly so). One of the definitive works of French literature and, at 1,267,069 words and 3,000 densely packed pages, one of the longest. It also holds the Guinness World Record for Longest Novel.

1. Artamène ou le Grand Cyrus by Madeleine de Scudéry

But despite what Guinness think, there is a novel longer than Proust’s, and it’s this 17th work by Madeleine de Scudéry (often attributed to her brother Georges), which clocks in at an astounding 2,100,000 words. It’s the tale of Cyrus the Great, and like many of de Scudéry’s works it featured portraits of contemporary society figures, thinly disguised as classic characters from Roman, Greek or Persian mythology. Artamène ou le Grand Cyrus is a French novel sequence, originally published in ten volumes in the 17th century and owes its length to wordy conversations between characters and repeated kidnaps of the heroine. Still, they were popular at the time due to the famous figures contained in the stories and still hold the record for longest novel ever pub
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