From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
A novella is a narrative work of prose fiction longer than a short story but shorter than a novel. While there is some disagreement of what length defines a novella, it has generally between 17,500 and 40,000 or 60 to 130 pages.
Although the novella is a common literary genre in several European languages, it is less common in English. English-speaking readers may be most familiar with the novellas of Franz Kafka, particularly The Metamorphosis and In the Penal Colony, George Orwell's Animal Farm, Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea, Philip Roth's Goodbye, Columbus and Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness.
Like the English word "novel", the English word "novella" derives from the Italian word "novella" (plural: "novelle"), for a tale, a piece of news. As the etymology suggests (from novo), novellas originally were news of town and country life worth repeating for amusement and edification.
The idea of serialized novellas dates back to the One Thousand and One Nights, also known as the Arabian Nights, from around the 10th century. The novella as a literary genre later began developing in the early Renaissance literary work of the Italians and the French. Principally, by Giovanni Boccaccio (1313–1375), author of The Decameron (1353)—one hundred novelle told by ten people, seven women and three men, fleeing the Black Death by escaping from Florence to the Fiesole hills, in 1348; and by the French Queen, Marguerite de Navarre (1492–1549), [aka Marguerite de Valois, et. alii.], author of Heptaméron (1559)—seventy-two original French tales (structured like The Decameron).
Not until the late eighteenth- and early nineteenth centuries did writers fashion the novella into a literary genre structured by precepts and rules. Contemporaneously, the Germans were the most active writers of the Novelle (German: "Novelle"; plural: "Novellen"). For the German writer, a novella is a fictional narrative of indeterminate length—a few pages to hundreds—restricted to a single, suspenseful event, situation, or conflict leading to an unexpected turning point (Wendepunkt), provoking a logical, but surprising end; Novellen tend to contain a concrete symbol, which is the narration's steady point.