The art of narratives is perhaps as old as man himself.
When writing fiction flowered into a genre and literary art, perhaps the narrative art became urgent in the human psyche, the ability and desire to tell a story and highlight moral, social and aesthetic concerns by way of story telling. But very soon story telling had larger concerns, than merely highlighting concerns, or seeking edification.
It took the form of grand narratives, and the grand myth of creating myths. Soon 19th century realism, transcended into the inner existence of becoming and being. The external realities gave way to more internal ones, realities were internal rather than external, the internal monologue, what is transpiring in the mind become the focal point of narrative. The dialogue between internal and external narrative, became the extrapolation factor of the novel. Realism was more reality than depicting empirical details.
Fiction at the beginning of the 20th century repudiated empiricist details and took the form of shaping internal realities and consciousness. Reality and truth became subjective interpolations and extrapolations. Truth was the individual reality and perception, truth was not only the grass being green, but also the grass being blue! This was an inversion and subversion of reality or realism. Fiction or novelistic techniques became more introverted rather than extroverted realities. The influence of psychoanalysis, the subjectivity of dreams, their interpretations and intervention, gave to fiction a supra realism, a surrealism.
But with the advent of French and German existentialism, fiction once again stood ground on the realities of the times: lassitude, indifference, inertia and ennui were themes close to the heart, because of callousness of human beings, dictatorial rights, violence and the World Wars.
An Indian novelist experimenting with such concerns today is Rana Dasgupta, whose narratives take you across the European continent, in the manner of Camus and Kafka, straddles wars and historicity.
Modernist trends of internalization, led to post modernist experiments, a pastiche of the new and the old. Epistolary techniques were used, so were flashback techniques in the cinematic mode.
With a novelist like Vikram Seth, we get inter texts and the hybridization of poetry and prose fiction. Another Indian novelist writing in English Vikrant Dutta is also successfully using balladic forms or, poetic narratives. The grand myth of the novel is now getting deconstructed, returning to older forms of narrative, making fiction stranded at some point of cross roads.