Adventure Literature

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Adventure Literature


fiction whose chief aim is the absorbing narration of real or imaginary events and in which analytical, didactic, and descriptive elements are either absent or are secondary in importance.

Adventure literature developed from many fictional narrative genres in which adventures and an interesting setting were essential but not the determining factors of the plot. Among these were such Hellenistic novels as Aethiopica by Heliodorus (third century A.D.). Other sources of adventure literature were the chivalric romance of the 12th through 16th centuries, such baroque novels as D’Urfey’s L’Astrée, the picaresque novel, the travel literature of the 17th and 18th centuries, and the pre-romantic Gothic novel with its turns of fate, secrets, and horrors. Journalism and documentary prose also contributed to the development of adventure literature.

The concept of adventure literature applied more specifically to the adventure literature that arose during the 19th century within the current of romanticism and neoromanticism and took on a number of their traits, among them absorbing plots, a turning away from bourgeois everyday life, a search for the lofty and heroic, and a striving for the new and original. Among the first examples of this type of adventure literature were the sea romances of J. F. Cooper and F. Marryat, the historical adventure novels of A. Dumas père, and the social adventure novels of E. Sue. Romantic ardor characterized famous works of adventure literature of the 19th and early 20th centuries written by such authors as T. M. Reid, R. L. Stevenson, R. Haggard, and J. Conrad (Great Britain); G. Ferry, G. Aimard, J. Verne, L. Jacolliot, L.-H. Boussenard, and P. Benoit (France); and J. London (USA).

Adventure literature is marked by a rapid development of action, inventiveness of plot, and intense emotions; secrets and enigmas and motifs of abduction and pursuit are also common. The settings are unusual and the characters are clearly divided into villains and heroes. Modern adventure literature is often combined with science fiction, thus extending the narrative possibilities to the ultimate limit.

The popularity of adventure literature in the USSR is attested by numerous serial publications, collections, and magazines. Examples are the series Biblioteka prikliuchenii i nauchnoi fantastiki (Library of Adventures and Science Fiction, since 1943); the publications of the Children’s Literature publishing house; the series Prikliucheniia (Adventures) of the Young Guard publishing house; the magazine Vokrug sveta (Around the World) and its supplement IskateV (The Seeker), 1961; and Podvig (Heroic Deed), a supplement to the magazine Sel’skaia molodezh’ (Rural Youth).

Writers who have contributed to adventure literature include A. Grin, V. Kaverin, A. Tolstoy, A. Gaidar, A. Beliaev, V. Kataev, G. Adamov, and Iu. Semenov. Soviet adventure literature is marked by a heroic, patriotic, life-affirming, and revolutionary fervor.


Rausse, H. Der deutsche Abenteuerroman. [No place] 1912.
Doutrepout, G. Les Types populaires de la littérature française, parts 1-2. Brussels, 1926–27.
Ayrenschmalz, A. Zum Begriff des Abenteuerromans. Tubingen, 1962.
Folsom, J. K. The American Western Novel. New Haven, Conn., 1966.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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