You might have found Stephen King’s The Stand, to be too long (and it is long, almost 1000 pages long), but it still doesn’t come close to the longest works of literature ever written. Countless hours went into writing them, and people enjoyed reading them. You could argue that before the internet and quickly-consumed listicles, people had longer attention spans for reading.
But it’s not exactly straightforward to rank the longest books ever published since you have to decide on a metric first. Whether you want to go by the word count, the number of pages, or perhaps even characters and language they were originally written in, the compilation you end up with will vary.
In the post that follows, we’ll list some of the longest literary works ever written, and we’ll be using both the word the page count to determine the length of the book. Let’s dive in.
Written by Mohiuddin Nawab, Devta is a thriller story of Farhad Ali Taimoor – a man who acquires telepathy. It was written over the course of three decades and published in the monthly Suspense Digest, continuously for 33 years. The novel spans a whopping 56 volumes, contains 11,206,310 words that cover 8,128 pages. It’s the longest Urdu novel ever written, and if you go by word count alone, it’s the longest literary work ever written.
The Guinness Book of World Records uses the character count to measure book-length, and this French novel spanning seven volumes holds the Guinness world record for the longest book ever written. ‘À la recherche du temps perdu’ or In Search of Lost Time, narrates the protagonist’s childhood and adulthood experiences in the 19th and 20th century France. It also explores the themes of involuntary memory, the lack of meaning in life, and longing for times lost.
The seven volumes contain almost 1.5 million words and 10 million characters that cover no less than four thousand pages. It took 14 years to write and is considered one of the most significant influences on modern novels.
Next up, we have a work in progress. This novel, written in the Tamil language, tells the tale of the major ancient Indian epic Mahabharatha. The author, Jeyamohan, started writing it back in 2014, and he has pledged to write it every day for a decade until he hits 25,000 pages.
So far, the page count is roughly 11,000, with over 1.5 million words. Unlike most re-narrations of the aforementioned epic, which tend to have a very rigid, almost black and white concept of good and evil, Venmurasu depicts a story far more complex, layered, and deep. Twenty-three books have been written and published as paperbacks, online, and as limited edition Collector’s hardbacks.
Keeping the series train going, we’re looking at the ten-volume Sci-Fi novel Mission Earth. The novel, set in the far off future, narrates the story of an intergalactic nation trying to take over the Earth, and a human fleet commander trying to battle them. The series ends in the Earth’s defeat, which is then erased from all records, maps, and star charts, as part of a massive cover-up operation.
Several of the volumes became bestsellers, with the few early volumes topping the New York Times bestseller list. The series spans almost 4,000 pages and contains 1.2 million words. The author L. Ron Hubbard died three months after the first installment of the series was published, so the remaining nine titles were posthumously published.
Our list won’t be complete without this classic from the 17th century. And while the Guinness book of world records considers In Search of Lost Time, the longest book ever written, but if you want to measure the length in words, there’s no arguing that Artamène is longer with its whopping 2.1 million words.
The novel is made up of 10 volumes and falls into the ‘heroic romance’ genre. It was written by Madeleine de Scudéry (but some attribute the work to Georges De Scudéry, her brother. The twists and the repetitive dialogue is what gives the novel its unusual length, but it’s still suspenseful enough to keep you on your toes.
Titled Zettels Traum, this German novel comes at 6.8 million characters, which makes it the longest book published as a single volume. Its English translation (by John E. Woods) has almost 1500 pages, weighing in at a surprising 13 lbs. In terms of pure word count, you’d have to read an estimated 1.1 million words to finish this behemoth of a novel.
A series of related documents presented in a novel form is called an epistolary novel, and that is what Clarissa is. Clarissa was published in the mid-18th century, and it narrates the tragedy of Clarissa Harlowe, who battles her controlling parents (which ends in her defeat and death).
The word count for Clarissa was obtained after it was digitized by the Project Gutenberg, and it is a bit shy of one hundred thousand, making it one of the longest English novels ever written. The author Samuel Richardson considered it his masterpiece, and it was ranked #14 by BBC on the top 100 British books list back in 2015.
Poor Fellow My Country is regarded as the longest Australian work of fiction, and it has won the Miles Franklin Award. Published in 1975, this novel narrates the story of Jeremy Delacy, who wishes to become a witch doctor in pre-second-word-war Australia. The events lead up to the Word War Two. It explores the foundations of the country and the rights of the Aborigine Australians.
At 1466 pages and 852,000 words, this Australian epic isn’t just the longest; it’s also widely considered to be the best Australian novel ever written.
To wrap this post up, writing a masterpiece can take years (and sometimes even decades) of dedication, but the product of those endless hours of labor is often magnificent. Or of course you could enjoy something like the The Capricious Autumn Stars wins the 2020 ASPAR Platinum Bookmark Award or anything shorter.
Now that you know the longest literary works, head over here to learn about the longest Hollywood movies ever made.