Trivialliteratur - light fiction
Unterhaltungsliteratur - light fiction
Belletristik - fiction and poetry, belles lettres (pl)
belletristisch - (Zeitschrift, Neigung) literary;
belletristische Literatur - fiction and poetry;
belletristische Bücher - books of fiction and poetry;
belletristische Abteilung - department for fiction and poetry
Trivialroman - light (trashy) novel
Unterhaltungsliteratur - popular fiction
Belletristik - belles-lettres
Belletristik - fiction
belles-lettres - plural n. [also treated as sing.] 1: essays, particularly of literary and artistic criticism, written and read primarily for their aesthetic effect. 2: literature considered as a fine art.
belles-lettres - literature that is an end in itself and not merely informative; specifically: light, entertaining, and often sophisticated literature
(used with a sing. verb) 1. Literature regarded for its aesthetic value rather than its didactic or informative content. 2. Light, stylish writings, usually on literary or intellectual subjects.
belles-lettres - literature that is appreciated for the beauty, artistry, and originality of its style and tone rather than for its ideas and informational content. Earlier the term was synonymous with literature, referring particularly to fiction, poetry, drama, criticism, and essays. However, belletristic literature has come to mean light, artificial writing and essays extolling the beauties of literature.http://www.bartleby.com/65/be/bellesle.html
This is getting more confusing, but if you guys can bear with me, I'm curious how these all fit together. I would describe English fiction along a spectrum something like this:
(Shakespeare, Austen, G. Eliot, Proust, Tolstoy)
(AS Byatt, Julian Barnes, PD James, Le Carré, Tolkien, Eco)
light fiction, popular fiction, bestsellers
(Agatha Christie, Dick Francis, Rosamunde Pilcher, John Grisham, Stephen King)
pulp fiction, trashy novels, potboilers
(Harlequin romances, magazine serials, pseudonymous commercial series)
How would such a spectrum go in German? My guess so far:
?Belletristik, ?Prosaliteratur, ?Romanliteratur, ?anspruchsvolle Romane
I'm not sure about the closest German equivalent of 'literary fiction' -- that is, good-quality modern novels that aim higher than genre fiction, but that may or may not turn out to be classic enough to rank as literature for generations to come. Does Belletristik refer to higher-quality fiction alone? Or is it broader, including Unterhaltungsliteratur as well?
To make things just a little trickier, in modern English its apparent cognate belles-lettres actually tends AFAIK to be more of a catch-all description for shorter literary writing that's *not* fiction, especially critical essays but also sometimes poetry, memoirs and so on. (That is, the neutral senses in NOAD, M-W and AHD seem more accurate to me than the last more pejorative sense in the Columbia Encyclopedia. 'Light,' maybe, but 'artificial' is in the eye of the beholder.) So are belles-lettres and Belletristik semi-false friends?
In any case, if Trivialliteratur is indeed a little more pejorative than Unterhaltungsliteratur, something like 'pop fiction' might fall between light/popular and pulp/trashy. But in general, 'light fiction' seems about right.