Indeed, it's important to understand what a novel is. A historian tells you about events that have taken place. By contrast, Raskolnikov's crime never saw the light of day. A novel examines not reality but existence. And existence is not what has occured, existence is the realm of human possibilities, everything man can become, everything he's capable of. Novelists draw up the map of existence by examining this or that human possibility.
The Art of the Novel, Milan Kundera