This article explores Western definitions of the novel and then turns toward an explication of how African writers have altered the genre to suit the needs of their readers, cultures, and literary traditions. Most notably, the contribution of oral traditions has shaped form, content, style, role, characterization, and the notion of quest in African novels. After a general survey of Western and African literature, the article focuses on the modern Hausa novel, which provides a particularly stark contrast to the Western novel, as it is typically short, didactic, and heavily reliant upon stereotypes and patterns. The article argues that, much more than the Western novel, the African novel defies easy genre boundaries. It is, in short, more epic, more political, more didactic, and more connected to its literary antecedents than the Western novel.