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The Longest English Literature Ever Written
- Author Deleted member 68887
- Create date Mar 20, 2023
- Updated Mar 22, 2023
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10 Longest Pieces of Literature
While plenty of people love to curl up with a good book, most readers tend to stick with novels of a manageable length. But some people feel that longer is better and prefer to read more involved books that they can really get lost in!
So, just how many words make up the longest pieces of literature that you can read today? Let’s take a look at 10 of the longest pieces of literature that you can read and rank them according to word count. We’ll also learn some interesting things about each one!
The novel Kelidar is so long that it had to be divided into 10 books! The story is set in Iran from 1946 to 1949 and clearly depicts the local tensions that lingered following World War II. The protagonist’s Kurdish family experiences difficulties in coexisting peacefully alongside their neighbors.
Did you know?
Author Mahmoud Dowlatabadi grew up in a less-than-wealthy family of shoemakers in the Iranian village of Dowlatabad and worked as a farmhand , later applying his own experience to his writing.
A Dance to the Music of Time
The piece A Dance to the Music of Time is a cycle of novels which is divided into 12 volumes in order to accommodate the full story. The literary work was inspired by Nicolas Poussin’s painting that bore the same title and explores English customs and mannerisms in the middle of the 20th century . The dance patterns shown in the painting are said to have struck Anthony Powell as a metaphor for social interactions.
While A Dance to the Music of Time explores social behaviors, it seeks to do so objectively from an outsider’s viewpoint.
Zettels Traum, which translates to “Bottom’s Dream” in English, was first begun alongside Arno Schmidt’s cooperative efforts with Hans Wollschläger to translate Edgar Allan Poe’s works into German. Zettels Traum was partially inspired by the works of James Joyce, and aimed to depict the different forms of knowledge in his story .
Arno Schmidt is also known for his story Kühe in Halbtrauer, and is said to be one of the most important German authors of the 20th century.
This story by Madison Cooper is set in the fictional town of Sironia, Texas, which many people believe is a very similar fictional version of Waco, Texas, where the author grew up. The novel follows the story of protagonist Tam Lipscomb from early childhood and details the struggles and social difficulties of the town’s citizens.
Sironia, Texas took 11 years to write and became a New York Times bestseller alongside winning the Houghton Mifflin Literary Award .
Marija Juric Zagorka is a notable figure for several reasons: Not only was she an outspoken women’s rights activist, but she was the first female journalist in Croatia as well. She is also one of the most frequently-read Croation authors, and Gordana is her longest work . Gordana, the protagonist, is a powerful fictional heroine who demonstrates strong national pride.
Other words by Marija Zagorka include Daughter of the Lotrščak, Republikanci, and The Knight of the Slavonian Plain.
A la recherche du temps perdu
When translated from French to English, the title of this piece of literature becomes “In Search of Lost Time” or “Remembrance of Things Past.” The novel is divided into seven parts and tells the story of the author’s life. The autobiographical nature of the piece is meant to serve as an allegory of the search for truth .
A key, central theme in this novel is the concept of involuntary memory, in which everyday cues spark the memory of a past experience without any deliberate effort.
Artamène ou le Grand Cyrus
The title of this lengthy piece translates to “Artamène, or Cyrus the Great” in English. This novel sequence is said to be one of the longest pieces of literature ever published, and the longest novel in all of French Literature . Artamène also sources other classic pieces such as the works of great historians and philosophers Herodotus and Xenophon.
While Madeleine de Scudéry is said to be the true author of this novel, the title pages cite her older brother, Georges de Scudéry.
Marienbad My Love
Marienbad My Love is, like many extremely long works, divided into several books of a more manageable length. The overall piece opens with a journalist and filmmaker who is exiled on a remote, deserted island and believes that he must convince a woman from his past to help him with an artistic project that will help him carry out the will of God.
Mark Leach is said to have added a fair bit of bulk to this piece by lifting long quotes from other books–but, to be fair, many of those other books were also his!
The Blah Story
Despite its name, The Blah Story isn’t really a story at all! This piece of literature is more of a written piece of abstract art, made to challenge the usual conventions and expectations of what a book should be. The Blah Story also knocks out a series of other notable feats, such as including the world’s longest made-up word in print, the longest sentence, and the world’s longest poem .
This abstract novel does contain monologues, dialogue, characters, and storylines, but these are very loosely defined in the spirit of keeping things open for interpretation.
Subspace Emissary’s Worlds Conquest
Subspace Emissary’s Worlds Conquest is the longest piece of literature that you can read according in terms of word count. It may not be a traditionally-published book, but no one can deny the impressive feat that author Christian has undertaken with this massive fanfiction! What’s more is that readers say it’s actually written well and provides a good balance of action, humor, and moral messages.
Rumor has is that Christian, who originally hails from Mexico, started writing this piece of fanfiction as a way of practicing his English.
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The longest piece of literature in human history is.... a fanfiction.
- Thread starter Homura
- Start date Jan 22, 2021
- Jan 22, 2021
With over 8 MILLION words, this The Loud House cartoon inspired fanfiction is the longest piece of literature ever written: https://fanfiction.net/s/12715870/1/The-Loud-House-Revamped I just found about this and I had to share it with someone.
1303 Chapters. That's dedication.
Is The Loud House that deep?
I skipped to the most recent chapter and they're talking about Bakugan so you know it's got to be good.
I thought it started to go downhill at around chapter 1193. But 654 to 1055 was absolute gold.
Wasn't there some Smash Bros fanfic that was the previous champ?
Rosebud said: Is The Loud House that deep? Click to expand... Click to shrink...
WhiteRabbitEXE said: Wasn't there some Smash Bros fanfic that was the previous champ? Click to expand... Click to shrink...
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Redhead said: With over 8 MILLION words, this The Loud House cartoon inspired fanfiction is the longest piece of literature ever written: https://fanfiction.net/s/12715870/1/The-Loud-House-Revamped I just found about this and I had to share it with someone. Click to expand... Click to shrink...
Just as a comparison, the complete Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan clocks in at 4.4 million words.
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The author is autistic (he says so on his bio) and this is clearly his obsession. Looks like he updates it every day. It's kind of inspiring in a way. Like I get he's mentally ill, but out of all the things you could be doing with your life, writing an 8+ million word nonsensical crossover fanfiction featuring hundreds of children's cartoons isn't all that bad. At least he's applying himself and he has an incredible work ethic. I'm in awe at how much humans can accomplish when they push themselves to the limit.
Akira said: The author is autistic (he says so on his bio) and this is clearly his obsession. Looks like he updates it every day. It's kind of inspiring in a way. Like I get he's mentally ill, but out of all the things you could be doing with your life, writing an 8+ million word nonsensical crossover fanfiction featuring hundreds of children's cartoons isn't all that bad. At least he's applying himself and he has an incredible work ethic. I'm in awe at how much humans can accomplish when they push themselves to the limit. Click to expand... Click to shrink...
Xterrian said: Just as a comparison, the complete Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan clocks in at 4.4 million words. Click to expand... Click to shrink...
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Jawmuncher said: 1303 Chapters. That's dedication. Click to expand... Click to shrink...
We got lots of awesome Bakugan and it was amazing. Everyone will show them off when the times come. Click to expand... Click to shrink...
I just randomly picked chapter 924 and I'm wading through wiki copy-pastes of Thanos, Buffy, and the Hyperbolic Time Chamber.
Loud House characters in Scoob and Shag let's go!
Jumped to a random chapter and it's literally just a retelling of the Lord of the Rings films including very large excerpts that appear to be copy pasted from Wikipedia. This doesn't really qualify as literature IMO, it's just a bunch of words.
Pikelet said: Jumped to a random chapter and it's literally just a retelling of the Lord of the Rings films including very large excerpts that appear to be copy pasted from Wikipedia. This doesn't really qualify as literature IMO, it's just a bunch of words. Click to expand... Click to shrink...
only 1300 chapters don't seem that long. I've read plenty of Chinese fantasy wuxia novel that are over 2000 chapters and still on going
Worm , an amazing and well written original webfiction series is 1,672,617 words. Ward , the sequel to Worm is 1,944,784 words. All together that's almost half as long as this, but with solid writing that improves over time to become amazing. There is also a free Worm and Word audiobook: http://audioworm.rein-online.org/ If I had to recommend a single chapter to sample the writing quality I'd pick this one . Specifically the audiobook version of that chapter ( Ward also has a free audiobook) over reading the chapter text. It's a single chapter in the sequel Ward . Every other chapter would completely spoil Worm but this particular chapter (and only that one) takes place before both Worm and Ward , spoils almost nothing of either, and stands alone as a short story IMO. (Do not read other chapters in Ward or Worm out of order, if you plan on checking out the series.)
I worked briefly with a autistic man who would spend all shift reciting the entire Smurfs trilogy scene for scene with commentary, so this seems in line. Wouldn't try to read it, but it's hard to hate on.
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It's something to do with your time. It would be great if the prose improved substantially over time. From what I'm reading here that doesn't seem to be the case, but it's not my time that's being spent and it's most likely not for my enjoyment, so whatever. It would not be a terrible goal if the author was so inclined. If you're going to spend all that time writing, nudging ever closer to creating a masterpiece may provide you greater fulfillment than you are currently. Even if you moved at a snail's pace. The reward is partly in the process.
I remember reading a HP fanfic which did get to the point it was bigger than the whole series at >1.1M words.
Are we surprised by this?
Sounds like Ready Player One but stretched out to an infinite length
The Wandering Inn is actually good and is about 7m words at the moment. It has a plot and characters and everything. Two long updates a week, usually. Web serials can get super long.
When you don't have editors to please this is the results.
And still beat George RR Martin
What's surprising is that the author has "only" been doing it since 2017, like I can only assume it will continue for years..
finfinfin said: The Wandering Inn is actually good and is about 7m words at the moment. It has a plot and characters and everything. Two long updates a week, usually. Web serials can get super long. Click to expand... Click to shrink...
The previous record holder was indeed a Super Smash Bros Brawl fanfic. It focused on Sonic, who was a late addition to the game, and its story mode, The Subspace Emissary. As a result, Sonic was hardly in the story mode. He literally appears at the very end, and is the only character able to damage the omnipresent God "Tabuu". This fanfic is all about where Sonic was before this part of the story, since he was absent. Pretty funny stuff
Osahi said: Not that difficult when your dialogue is five people repeating the same thing to each other. Randomly opened chapter 953, and the first lines is basically this Character 1: oh no, I'm sorry Chaarcter 2: it's not your fault Character 3: yeah, it's his fault, not yours. Character 4: don't beat yourself about it. You have nothing to do with it. Character 5: I agree, not your fault! CHaracter 2: that''s what I said. Character 3: yeah, indeed Character 1: thank you guys, it's not my fault indeed! Character 5: no, it's the other one's fault. Character 3: we'll beat him up! CHaracter 2: yeah, lets! Character 4: I agree! Character 5: a beating it is then! Character 1: I'm so happy it's not my fault and we're going to beat the one whose fault it is. Character 4: you betcha! Click to expand... Click to shrink...
CrimsonN0 said: Man, I really wasn't paying attention to the word count, it's way past Worm then. (Worm and the Wandering Inn being the only web serials I've really read week-to-week) Click to expand... Click to shrink...
Indy in the Fridge
it's a weird mixture of (bad) fiction and playwriting someone just spent several years typing out whatever bullshit related to this Loud universe that they could think of.
Vincent Grayson said: Minor point, but I don't think people with autism are generally referred to as "mentally ill". Click to expand... Click to shrink...
Captain Smoker said: I think it's probably Perry Rhodan , a german science fiction series which is getting published every week since 1961. The word count is probably beyond 230,000,000 words so far. But it's getting written by multiple authors obviously. PERRY RHODAN PERRY RHODAN gehört zu den bekanntesten Unterhaltungsmarken im deutschsprachigen Raum: Die Science-Fiction-Serie erscheint seit über 56 Jahren, wird in mehreren Sprachen veröffentlicht und gilt bei vielen ihrer Leser als Kult. perry-rhodan.net Click to expand... Click to shrink...
Holy shit. I once read a over 1,000 page Life is Strange fanfic and I thought that was crazy long (for a fanfic)
What is the Longest Book in the World? – A Journey Through Literary Epics
Have you ever challenged yourself to read the longest book in the world? If you’re an avid reader or just someone with a taste for literary trivia, you’ve probably wondered about the mammoth works of literature that hold records for their sheer length.
In this article, we’ll explore the world’s longest books, the creative minds behind them, and the impact they’ve had on the literary landscape. So, grab a cup of coffee and settle in for a captivating journey through the world’s most epic reads.
What Defines the “Longest Book”?
Before we dive into the specifics, it’s important to establish some criteria for determining the “longest book.” Is it based on the number of pages, words, or characters? What about multi-volume works or books that have been published in different formats and editions? For the purpose of this article, we’ll primarily consider the total word count as our main criterion, but we’ll also discuss other factors that contribute to a book’s length.
1. The Guinness World Record Holder: “À la recherche du temps perdu” by Marcel Proust
According to the Guinness World Records, the longest book in the world is Marcel Proust’s “À la recherche du temps perdu,” also known as “In Search of Lost Time” or “Remembrance of Things Past.” This modernist masterpiece, originally published in French between 1913 and 1927, consists of seven volumes and approximately 1.2 million words.
Proust’s magnum opus is a semi-autobiographical novel that explores themes of memory, desire, art, and the nature of time. Its intricate narrative style and psychological depth have earned it a place among the greatest works of literature, inspiring generations of readers and writers alike.
2. The Chinese Classic: “Dream of the Red Chamber” by Cao Xueqin
“Dream of the Red Chamber,” also known as “The Story of the Stone” or “Hong Lou Meng,” is a masterpiece of Chinese literature written by Cao Xueqin during the Qing Dynasty. This 18th-century novel boasts a staggering 1.1 million words, making it one of the longest books in the world.
Set in the declining years of a noble family, the novel presents a detailed and vivid portrayal of Chinese society, culture, and politics. With over 400 characters, “Dream of the Red Chamber” weaves a complex web of relationships and rivalries that has captivated readers for centuries.
3. The Indian Epic: “Mahabharata”
The ancient Indian epic “ Mahabharata ” is another contender for the title of the longest book in the world. While it’s difficult to determine the exact word count of this sacred Hindu text, it’s estimated to contain anywhere between 1.8 and 2 million words. Written in Sanskrit, “Mahabharata” is a vast narrative that encompasses philosophy, religion, and mythology, in addition to recounting the epic story of the Kurukshetra War between two groups of cousins.
4. The Prolific Russian: “War and Peace” by Leo Tolstoy
Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” is often mentioned in discussions about the longest books in the world. This sprawling historical novel, published in 1869, delves into the lives of five Russian aristocratic families during the Napoleonic Wars. With a word count of around 587,000 words, “War and Peace” may not be the longest book ever written, but its intricate narrative and multilayered themes make it a monumental work in world literature.
Tolstoy’s novel is renowned for its vivid portrayal of Russian society, its exploration of the human condition, and its philosophical reflections on history and war. The sheer length and complexity of “War and Peace” can be daunting for some readers, but those who embark on this literary journey often find it to be a deeply rewarding experience.
5. The Modern Saga: “Clarissa” by Samuel Richardson
Another contender for the longest book in the world is “Clarissa, or the History of a Young Lady,” an epistolary novel
by English author Samuel Richardson. Published in 1748, “Clarissa” consists of a series of letters between the title character, Clarissa Harlowe, and various friends and family members. The novel’s word count is estimated at around 984,000 words.
“Clarissa” is a groundbreaking work of psychological realism, exploring themes of virtue, gender, and class. Its length and intricate structure may present challenges for some readers, but its influence on later writers, such as Jane Austen and Charles Dickens, is undeniable.
6. The Ambitious Undertaking: “The Wheel of Time” Series by Robert Jordan
While not a single book, “The Wheel of Time” series by Robert Jordan (and later completed by Brandon Sanderson) deserves mention in any discussion of the longest books. This epic fantasy series, published between 1990 and 2013, spans 14 volumes and a prequel, with a total word count of over 4.4 million words.
Set in a sprawling, intricately built world, “The Wheel of Time” follows a large cast of characters as they struggle against the forces of darkness. The series’ length and complexity have earned it a dedicated fanbase, as well as comparisons to J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings.”
Honorable Mentions: Other Notable Long Books
While the above works are among the longest in the world, several other books also deserve recognition for their impressive length:
- “Les Misérables” by Victor Hugo: This classic French novel, published in 1862, has a word count of around 530,000 words and explores themes of justice, redemption, and social inequality.
- “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand: Rand’s magnum opus, published in 1957, contains over 645,000 words and presents her philosophy of Objectivism through the story of a dystopian United States.
- “Infinite Jest” by David Foster Wallace : This postmodern novel, published in 1996, has a word count of approximately 543,000 words and weaves together numerous plotlines, footnotes, and narrative styles to create a complex, engaging work.
The longest book in the world is a matter of some debate, with various contenders vying for the title based on factors such as word count, page count, and narrative complexity. From the philosophical musings of Proust to the epic scope of “The Wheel of Time,” the books discussed in this article represent some of the most ambitious and groundbreaking works of literature.
Whether you’re a seasoned reader looking for a new challenge or a curious soul eager to explore the world’s longest books, these literary epics offer a chance to immerse yourself in captivating stories, richly developed worlds, and thought-provoking themes. So, why not embark on your own literary adventure and discover the epic tales that have captured the imaginations of readers for centuries?
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A la recherche du temps perdu by Marcel Proust contains an estimated 9,609,000 characters (each letter counts as one character. Spaces are also counted, as one character each).
The title translates to "Remembrance of Things Past".
Proust produced the first volume of his 13-volume masterpiece in 1912 (it was first published in 1913).
The second part of his work won international awards as soon as it was published and with them, an international reputation.
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The Lord of the Rings Fanfic That’s 10 Times Longer Than the Original
What a 5-million-word labor of love can tell us about the art form as a whole..
Every so often, a surprising claim makes the rounds on social media: that the longest work of fiction in the English language is The Subspace Emissary’s Worlds Conquest , a fanfiction based on the Nintendo fighting game Super Smash Bros . As far as misinformation goes, this internet legend, while not true, isn’t especially harmful. But it’s still passed around without the quick Google that it would take to disprove it.
Partly that’s because it’s not so much inaccurate as outdated. The longest novel in English, A Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight , written by Henry Williamson and published in 15 volumes between 1951 and 1969, is 2.4 million words. The Subspace Emissary’s Worlds Conquest , published on fanfiction.net between 2008 and 2018, reached 4.1 million words by its conclusion, an admittedly impressive number. But The Subspace Emissary’s Worlds Conquest was eclipsed several years ago as the longest fanfiction—and therefore the longest work of fiction in English more generally. The fic that beat it was Ambience: A Fleet Symphony , based on a free-to-play browser game featuring anthropomorphized teen-girl versions of World War II warships, which reached 4.5 million words by the end of its run in 2019. And there are several fanfics that have in turn broken Ambience ’s record, including at least four that are still in progress.
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One of those fics is the currently 5.6-million-word Lord of the Rings fanfic At the Edge of Lasg’len . (The entirety of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings , by comparison, stands at just 558,003.) Lasg’len follows an original character, Earlene, who travels from New York to Ireland and accidentally gets caught up in the world of the Wood Elves. From there things only escalate, with Thranduil and other Tolkien Elves colliding with more original human characters and creating “a tale of social collapse, families that grow under one very large roof, battles against past and present traumas, prejudices, and the slow return of the great First Age Elves to the light of day.”
The writers, Stevie Barry and AnnEllspethRaven, met online. Ann discovered fanfic in 2016 following the release of The Battle of the Five Armies, the final part of the movie trilogy of The Hobbit . “Reading that first fic and encountering a complex written work that explored social, political, and deeply difficult emotional topics using these familiar characters—that was the lightning bolt,” said Ann. “These characters I already knew were really archetypes, able to be further sculpted and used as messengers for my own themes and narratives.” A longtime Tolkien fan, she started researching and writing, publishing her first 65,000-word story within four weeks.
Meanwhile, Barry was writing her own Hobbit fanfics. “It’s how I met Ann—she read [one] and we started chatting in the comments, before moving to private messaging.” When Ann began writing Lasg’len , which features many of Tolkien’s characters transported into modern-day Ireland, she reached out to Barry for help with “accent or dialogue.” Barry’s original series, a supernatural series called The M Universe , features many Irish characters.
From there, Ann invited Barry to give one of her original characters a “guest appearance” in Lasg’len . “We found we enjoyed cowriting so much that I brought [the character] in full-time,” Barry said. The pair split the work, with Barry mostly working on the human elements and Ann on the elven ones. It’s not an especially common practice in fanfic, but it does reflect the deeply communal nature of transformative works, where authors are aware that they’re already, to some degree, working with the original creator of the universe. For Ann, another server called Vinyë Lambengolmor (“New Loremasters of Tongues”) offered expert help in Tolkien’s Elven linguistics. She also credits the work of two other writers: Zhie, whose Tolkien-inspired Bunniverse series has run for 20 years and now spans over 400 stories, and Spiced_Wine’s Dark Prince universe, which is based on The Silmarillion .
In addition to connecting fans and facilitating inspiration, the internet enables this kind of marathon writing in other ways. It has none of the constraints of traditional publishing: Back-of-the-napkin math suggests that Lasg’len would run around 20,000 pages, weighing about 62 pounds in paperback, and while theoretically a story millions of words long could be published as a series or self-published as an e-book, fanfics are distributed very differently. One of their key features is an episodic nature, with chapters typically uploaded one by one. That incremental progress can add up over the course of years.
That’s what happened with Lasg’len : Barry says that she and Ann never set out to write the longest fanfiction. At the time we spoke, Lasg’len was the longest work on Archive of Our Own, currently the most popular site for fanfiction, though it’s hard to check it against all of the many fanfic platforms that are out there. During the process of writing this piece , Lasg’len has traded positions in the No. 1 and No. 2 longest-fanfic spots with Future Shock , a Sarah Connor Chronicles fic, as each of them have posted updates.
“Ideas spawned more ideas, and on it went. I think we first started registering how very unusual the length was at around the 3-million-word mark,” said Barry. More recently, they’ve been going back over the earlier chapters, “to clean things up and bring them more in line with what the story ultimately became.”
One thing became clear while speaking with Barry and Ann: They’re not deliberately shooting for any kind of record. Ann says that they heard about The Subspace Emissary’s Worlds Conquest and Ambience: A Fleet Symphony at some point during writing, and realized that their story arc would likely mean surpassing those lengths “by miles.” But it’s the arc that motivates them, not the word count itself. “What mattered was that they were well-written words,” said Ann.
To put it simply, Ann says the story has to be long due to its very nature. In The Silmarillion , there is a song of creation called the “Ainulindalë.” This song shaped the world, but an evil power introduced dissonance, creating all its ills. “But Tolkien never wrote how the song would end,” Ann said. And that’s where she and Barry come in. “We are finishing the ‘Ainulindalë,’ writing the grand epic of how the First Music concludes.”
“That is why it was becoming one of the longest fics in existence—we bit off the big one. We probably each sat in our respective chairs, shrugged, and thought, well, we’re out of our minds, we won’t run out of things to do, it might be done before 7 million words, guess we’ll find out. Then we thought of another subplot and started typing again.”
It ties back to how Ann started writing fic in the first place, and it’s one of the things that makes fic so appealing in general: Published works always have gaps that passionate fans can turn into something completely new. And other fans get on board. Audiences grow around fics, leading to constant feedback and encouragement for the writers as each chapter is posted. And the creation of miniature fandoms is only becoming easier with specialized Discords like Lasg’len ’s, where fans discuss the world of Lasg’len, new updates, and the general off-topic chitchat of a small community. Archive of Our Own attributes a boom in fanfic since 2020 to the pandemic, “as people turn[ed] to fanworks for comfort.” The site’s admins suggest that more people had time to create works, and others read and commented more, to foster a sense of community. And the increase in this kind of feedback and encouragement is likely a reason super long fics have become more common in recent years.
Brought together by online fandom, and spurred on by the community they’ve built, Barry and Ann have just kept writing. That common fan impulse to dig into something unexplored by the original media has spun into one of the longest pieces of literature in existence, chapter by chapter, over more than five years. And as those chapter counts creep up over time, it’s likely that many more extremely long fanfictions will grow into existence in the years to come. Worlds Conquest will be left further behind, its legacy much more interesting as an early example of a trend than as a quick piece of trivia.
The World’s Longest Novel
Over the years, there has been some controversy over what constitutes the world’s longest novel. The Guinness Book of World Records gives the honor to Marcel Proust’s elephantine Remembrance of Things Past , weighing in at 9,609,000 characters (including spaces). Other commentators cite Henry Darger’s In the Realms of the Unreal , a 15,000 page, handwritten tome that has yet to see print. (Darger is said to have commented: “This is what you can do when you have no radio or television.”) Why write something so long? Armen Shekoyan , an Armenian writer committed to producing the world’s longest novel, says:
If you write a book according to the usual criteria, one person may like it, the other may dislike it, but when you write ten volumes, no one will say that the book is in eight.
Shekoyan, however, doesn’t comprehend the magnitude of the task he has set for himself. After all, what’s ten volumes compared to the 106 volumes of the Hakkenden , a Japanese epic running to 38 million words.
So, whose book is the biggest? The controversy will soon be put to rest, possibly for all time, when writer Richard Grossman installs his 3 million-page novel Breeze Avenue on a remote mountain in Kaha, Hawaii. Although it is unclear how many words Breeze Avenue comprises, an educated guess puts the count at over 1 billion.
The book, much like Grossman’s first two novels, is radically experimental. Thousands of pages of poetry are translated into other languages – among them, Hebrew, Chinese, American Sign Language and various programming languages – and then back translated to create interchangeable sub-elements of which Grossman claims there are 1,000,000. Pictures of buyers, who must apply to purchase the book, will be incorporated into the text itself. Much of the writing is, in Grossman’s words, “differentiated and obfuscated. Like a labyrinth in which you can be lost to be found.” Despite all of the post-modern shenanigans, however, Grossman insists the book, which is loosely modeled on Dante’s Divine Comedy , has a definite narrative thread. The story involves a California retiree’s struggle to deal with the aftermath of a young, autistic woman’s death and prominently features Hasbro’s popular board game Scrabble.
Accompanying the book’s release, Grossman plans for a series of “performance readings.” One of these projects, a symphony played on an instrument of Grossman’s own design, has already taken place. The instrument, which Grossman refers to as the Car-iolon, is composed of thirteen cars (one of which he calls the harpsicar), which drive in tandem while playing music. The instrument plays a role in the book, and its first performance was held last Fall, with music specially composed for the event by Philip Glass. Other “readings” are planned to follow the book’s (tentative) release in 2008-2009.
Did Grossman set out to write the world’s longest book? “Not really,” he said. “It just kept coming together .”
Ben Dooley is a Washington correspondent for the Japanese news service Kyodo News. He writes on US-Japan relations, reporting from the White House and the Pentagon. In his spare time, he works as a translator. He is currently writing a police noir set in Japan. Follow him on Twitter @benjamindooley .
I’ve decided to reinvent The Millions
I guess it’s probably time for a manifesto, the millions guest contributor: author, kaye gibbons, classic shorts, tis the season.
Leonard Cohen, Master of Prose
Books to Laugh with
Battle of the sexes by patrick brown.
Longest Book Ever Written: Controversy behind the Guinness World Record Decision
By: Isaac Brown
Illustrated by: Carla Cieza Espinoza
If you search “longest book in the world,” you will probably see Marcel Proust’s immense eight-part novel, “Remembrance of Things Past,” weighing in at approximately 1.5 million words. This novel holds the Guinness World Record and yet some would say that it is not nearly the longest book ever written.
Much of the controversy revolves around the question of what can be considered a book. So, here are some candidates to take the place of Proust’s novel, and the reasons for and against their crowning.
“The Loud House: Revamped” is perhaps the longest text that could be considered a book. With a supposed 14 million words (and growing), it seems to include many of the elements that would be found in a novel. This massive chronicle, however, is a fanfiction and cannot be published. Not only is it not a book in a legal sense, but the premises of the book are not the author’s intellectual property. Nonetheless, rejecting this candidate is objectionable: why should legal code have a say over what a book is? Is it only art if it’s legal? That said, the work’s legal status is grounds for the Guinness World Record to reject this option.
Next up is the “Blah Story” by Nigel Tomm at some 11 million words. This piece is perhaps the most controversial and most ridiculed on this list because the entire book (twenty-three volumes of it) are mostly randomly generated words with literally millions of instances of the word “blah” inserted among them. This includes a randomly generated word that is millions of characters long. Many would reject this candidate not so much on the grounds that it is not a book, but on the grounds that it is not even art, because it was produced more by an algorithm than it was with human creativity. Nonetheless, one could also argue that Tomm’s creativity was a necessary catalyst for the book to be generated. Still, you could see why it’d be annoying if you were, say, Marcel Proust, and all your hard work got dethroned by someone using a random word generator. It is legally considered a book, but seems to carry less status as a “book” than any fanfiction.
Illustrated by Carla Cieza Espinoza.
Next up is Mark Leach’s several-million word work, “Marienbad My Love.” This one, though longer than Proust’s novel, faces some major issues. Foremost is that not all of the content is written by Leach. Much of it is a compilation of pre-existing texts. Perhaps one could say that he made the entire piece because he organized the content. However, if this is the case, then any anthology could be a book, in which case whoever could put the greatest number of novels into a single text would have created the longest book. This is not to mention that, like Nigel Tomm’s text, Leach’s is a collection of several volumes, each of which may be considered a book by itself. So, in a sense, the length of a book is arbitrary: that is, someone could push a series together and say it’s one book (essentially what Tolkien did with the “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy).
While we’ve been dealing with books from the last century so far (in fact, mostly from the last couple decades), this next one comes from as early as 3000 BC: the Hindu epic the “Mahabarata.” When translated this comes in at nearly two million words long. But of course, it comes with its issues. First, “Mahabarata” is written in a different form than the other books―namely, epic poetry. This may not be much of an issue for the record book, but it raises the question of whether it should be considered within a different category. That is, is a single poem a book? It also faces the same issues some of the other books have faced, such as authorship, as we have no knowledge of a single writer, but only an era of several centuries during which the tradition was gradually compiled.
There are some other options, such as Madeleine de Scudery’s “Artamene,” but this also faces the issue of publication. It was unpublished during its time, due to its immense size of over two million words. Nonetheless, it is published now and even available on Amazon.
Jules Romains’ “Men of Good Will” is a similar example: though it is a published multi-volume work of about two million words (only slightly shorter than “Artamene”), it is not considered the longest novel. This seems to be because of its several volumes. Yet, Proust’s novel has eight parts. So, if he had called them volumes, would his work still have been chosen?
Regardless, for the record of longest book, my money is on “Artamene,” as it checks all the legal, creative, and authorial boxes. The only holdup seems to be that it was not published in its day. This is a testament to its high word-count, as it was only unpublished due to its exorbitant length. Perhaps the Guinness World Record should expand its definition for what makes a book.
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What is the Longest Book in the World?
23 Nov 2022
Epic novels, such as Leo Tolstoy’s famously long War and Peace, can be both a fascinating read and a great achievement, though many would perhaps think twice before embarking on some of the absolute longest books in history.
Naturally debates arise over how exactly to measure a novel’s length, whether that’s through the number of pages or words written, the total number of characters used, or whether it can be made up of multiple volumes that still count as one book. However, according to the Guinness World Records, A la recherche du temps perdu by Marcel Proust is officially the longest book in the world.
Here we take a closer look at Marcel Proust’s tremendous tome.
A la recherche du temps perdu by Marcel Proust
Despite being split into multiple volumes, Marcel Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu is considered the longest novel ever published. Its title translates to Remembrance of Things Past (first translated into English as In Search of Lost Time ) and contains nearly 1.3 million words with an estimated 9,609,000 characters. Each letter is counted as one character, and spaces are also counted as one character each.
The book also contains some long sentences – the longest being 958 words. This extreme sentence style is considered as Proust writing the task of thinking things through.
It’s obviously hard to summarise a book such as A la recherche du temps perdu, but essentially the book tells the story of Proust’s life and self-discovery, following the narrator’s recollections of childhood and his experiences growing up and falling in love in late 19th century and early 20th century high-society France, while reflecting on the loss of time and the pursuit of truth and meaning in the world.
Élisabeth, Countess Greffulhe (1905) by Philip de László, served as the model for the character of the Duchesse de Guermantes
Image Credit: Philip Alexius de Laszlo, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Its contemplations on the transcendental potential of art, time, involuntary memory, self and loss means the work is often viewed as one of the seminal works of the 20th century. The mixture of high social comedy, formative years’ experiences and philosophy also covers subjects including class, homosexuality, antisemitism, psychology, botany and the sociopolitical shifts in postwar France after World War One .
The novel centres on the story of a man (potentially called Marcel) who is prone to obsessive love. He is a social climber in a district of Paris synonymous with nobility and high society. His gradual realisation that his own experience might be redeemed by translation into art becomes the subject of a book that unfolds at the pace of life.
One of the most renowned parts of the book is its take on involuntary memory with ‘the madeleine incident’, in which a memory of the protagonist’s childhood is conjured-up by the taste of a small cake dipped in lime-blossom tea. Such sensory memories are indicative of Proust’s artistic writing style.
Begun in 1909, when he was aged 38 years old, Proust finished the first volume of his masterpiece in 1912. He used his own money to have the first volume released by the Grasset publishing house in 1913 after receiving rejections from other publishers and editors. At this time, Proust planned only two further volumes.
Initially Proust paid critics to speak favourably about the book, but the second part of his work won international awards as soon as it was published.
Despite establishing the structure early on, even after volumes were initially finished, Proust continued to add new material. During the war years especially, he revised the remainder of his novel, enriching and deepening its feeling and construction, enhancing the realistic and satirical elements of his tale. This tripled its length.
Between 1913 and 1927 the full 7 volume novel was published, volume by volume. Living much of his later life as a reclusive semi-invalid in a sound-proofed flat in Paris, Proust gave himself over entirely to writing his masterpiece. The last 3 of the 7 volumes contain oversights and fragmentary or unpolished passages, as they existed only in draft form at the time of Proust’s death in November 1922. These were published posthumously, edited by his brother Robert.
The book was translated into English by C. K. Scott Moncrieff, appearing under the title Remembrance of Things Past between 1922 and 1931. Scott Moncrieff translated volumes 1 to 6 of the 7 overall volumes. He died before completing the last volume, which was then rendered by other translators at different times. When Scott Moncrieff’s translation was later revised (first by Terence Kilmartin, then by D. J. Enright) the title of the novel was changed to the more literal In Search of Lost Time .
C. K. Scott Moncrieff painted by Edward Stanley Mercer (1889–1932)
Image Credit: Edward Stanley Mercer (1889–1932), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
C. K. Scott Moncrieff’s famous translation from the 1920s is today regarded as a classic in its own right, and is now available in three volumes in Penguin Classics.
In 1995 Penguin undertook a fresh translation of the book by editor Christopher Prendergast and 7 translators in 3 countries, based on the latest, most complete and authoritative French text. Its 6 volumes (comprising all of Proust’s 7 volumes), were published in Britain in 2002.
In addition to being seen as one of the most profound achievements of the human imagination, this huge and complex book also paints a comic portrait of France during Proust’s lifetime, and the striking characters of the novel loom large, such as Charles Swann and Odette de Crécy, Baron de Charlus, Morel, the Duchesse de Guermantes and Françoise, Saint-Loup.
A la recherche du temps perdu is considered by many critics to be the definitive modern novel, and it had a large impact on many subsequent writers such as Virginia Woolf and Samuel Beckett. Even Marilyn Monroe was said to have 5 volumes of the book on her shelves and Sean Connery was said to also be a fan. Whilst some famous writers have conversely found the work dull, nevertheless, the novel had great influence on 20th century literature, and has been emulated and parodied ever since.