The novel is more interesting and varied than ever, according to both John Banville and Neal Mukherjee, who took part in a panel discussion on the future of the global novel at the Dalkey Book Festival on Sunday. Echoing what author Meagan Delahunt recently told me about the fine health of international literature, Banville and Mukherjee feel that there is a wide range of prose styles found across the globe, and the variety is what keeps the form of the novel ever-changing. Mukherjee also reminded the audience that the literary form is relatively young. “The novel is only three hundred years old.”
Both novelists think that the novel has benefited from the rise of social media and the digital revolution, which they don’t see as a threat to writing at all. Banville was also effusive in his praise for long-form narrative television, which has taken the place of the social-realist Victorian novel, with multiple plots and many characters. He is a huge fan of The Sopranos, and his current favorite show is Bloodline. The popularity of shows like this has freed novelists to experiment with fiction. Mukherjee is encouraged by a return to normality and level-headedness in the publishing world from the heady days of massive advances of the 1990s and early 2000s — “the Zadie Smith phenomenon,” as he calls it.