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Picaresque novel

The picaresque novel (la novela picaresca) is one of the most potent of all literary techniques. The first picaresque novel was Lazarillo de Tormes, which was published anonymously in Spain in 1554. The title character Lazarillo is a pícaro (Spanish for "rogue" or "rascal") who must live by his wits in an impoverished country full of villains and fools. This model continues to be followed to this day, as an episodic recounting of the adventures of a rogue on the road.

Other notable picaresque novels include Don Quixote, although the title character is no rogue, Grimmelshausen's Simplicissimus (1669), Le Sage's Gil Blas (1715), the body of Tobias Smollett's work, and Daniel Defoe's Moll Flanders (1722). Henry Fielding proved his mastery of the form in his Joseph Andrews (1742), The Life of Jonathan Wild the Great (1743) and in The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling (1749). Rudyard Kipling's Kim (1901) combined the picaresque novel with the then new spy novel. Jaroslav Hašek's The Good Soldier Svejk (1923?) was the first example of the picaresque novel in central Europe.

Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was consciously written as a picaresque novel as were many other novels of vagabond life, such as Jack Kerouac's On the Road (1957). More recent examples are Helen Zahavi's Dirty Weekend (1991), "the serial-killer novel to end all serial-killer novels" (Ian Ousby) and Stewart Home's Cunt (1999).

The Satyricon of Petronius (60 AD) has since been reclassified as a picaresque novel.