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  Bildungsroman (German, ‘formation-novel’) is a type of fiction often used by European and North American writers. The central figure of such a work is seen as a kind of archetype of current society, and his or her life and adventures (the subjects of the novel) are made a framework or metaphor for wider social, ethical and moral comment. The form originated in Germany—Goethe\'s ‘Wilhelm Meister’ novels (1777-1829) are a supreme example—and was taken up elsewhere, in whole or in part, by such writers as Dickens, Flaubert and Gogol. It has been a particularly fruitful form in 20th-century North American writing: Louis Auchincloss, Robertson Davies, John Irving, Mordecai Richler, Philip Roth, John Updike and Jerome Weidman have made outstanding use of it. In Germany, Heinrich Böll, Günter Grass, Thomas Mann and others have used the form with savagery: Mann tearing into the bourgeois values of the early 20th century, Grass depicting the charnel house of Nazism and Böll the moral vacuity that followed it in ways that make the distinction still fuzzier between story and sermon. KMcL.  



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