Evolution of Prosper Mérimée's Short Story Technique

Viktoria Skrupskelis, Fordham University


The short story is often considered a minor genre, and those authors whose reputations rest on short stories alone are not always recognized as major writers. Mérimée himself, especially in later years when his creative writings could no longer equal the earlier ones, gave much of his time to historical work. He believed that these would be his most valuable and permanent contribution. A misunderstanding sometimes arises because the short story is regarded as a short, undeveloped novel, or an excerpt from it. The novel and the short story, however, are two distinct forms, each requiring different talents and different techniques. There are few authors who excel equally in both. The short story Is a very exacting genre. "La nouvelle ’pardonne’ peu," wrote Marcel Arland, Elle est excellente, ou bien n’est pas. Un roman, sur les trois cents ou les mille pages de son étendue, peut offrir impunément des longueurs, des trous, des maladresses; et de certains romans meme on dirait que leurs faiblesses nous attachent à eux davantage. Il suffit souvent d’une invraisemblance ou d’un accent faux pour détruire une nouvelle. The first and most obvious trait which distinguishes the short story from a novel is the difference in dimensions. The short story is a brief work, of course. The reader is exposed to it for a very limited time and the artist has to produce the desired, single effect at once. In a novel, on the other hand, an author holds his reader’s attention for a much longer time and does not aim at an immediate, or a unique effect during this prolonged contact. He tries to give a totality of view and to present his characters in time, i.e. developing. The effect of a short story, however, is more concentrated and more intense.

Subject Area

French literature|Theater|Folklore|History

Recommended Citation

Skrupskelis, Viktoria, "Evolution of Prosper Mérimée's Short Story Technique" (1959). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI28673375.