The French term ‘Conte’ means tale or story. It denotes a kind of fictitious narrative somewhat different from the roman and the nouvelle. The true Conte tended to be a little fantastic (not realistic), droll and witty. They were often allegorical and moral.
Famous examples are La Fontaine’s Amours de Psyché et Cupidon (1669), Perrault’s Contes de ma mère l’Oye (1697), and Voltaire’s Candide (1759). In this category, we can also include Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1726), Voltaire’s Zadig (1747), Samuel Johnson’s Rasselas (1759), and the anonymous Japanese romance Wasobyoe (1774-9), which has affinities with Gulliver’s Travels.
It was a popular form of fiction in the 18th c. when the other main authors were Hamilton, Crébillon fils, and Voisenon. From the 19th c., the term has tended to denote merely a short story. For example, Gustave Flaubert’s Trois Contes (English; Three Tales, 1877). Guy de Maupassant called his short stories as contes.
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