Tuesday 8 December 2009
Ana's Favourite Fictions
In no particular order, and confining myself to one book for each author (and restricting myself also to twenty out of hundreds), these are as follows;
Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens. A wonderful book with one of my favourite minor charcters, Lavvy the Irrepressible. Like her 'I don't care whether I am a Minx, or a Sphinx.'
Emma by Jane Austen. I adore Jane Austen, but I did say I was confining myself to one book for each author, so Emma it is. Again, she is a lot like me, and I once almost fell into the same trap!
Ulysses by James Joyce. What can I say about this book other than it's certainly the greatest Irish novel, and possibly one of the greatest books ever written. Joyce's insight into the history, culture and psychology of his country is quite breathtaking. If Ireland disappeared off the face of the earth I think it might be possible, in large measure, to recreate it on the basis of the information in Ulysses. My favourite section is Oxen of the Sun, where the author explores the differing modes of literary discourse.
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham. The very best childrens' book. I read it when I was seven, and fell in love with the Great God Pan, the Piper at the Gates of Dawn.
Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote. Ah, the wonderful, life-enhancing Holly Golightly, the freest of free spirits. I identify with her more than any other female in fiction.
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. I read this over a wet and feverish weekend as an undergraduate at Cambridge, and it filled my mind with all sorts of alarming thoughts, Napoleonic in intensity!
Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry. A tremendous tour de force, a great whirlwind of images, impressions and ideas. In my view the best English novel of the last century.
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. Most of Hemingway's work leaves me quite cold, but not this little book. It was one of the set books in my forth form English class. Most of the girls thought it silly, but I, being a lover of Greek and Roman myths and legends, saw in it some of the great eternal values. A book that transforms the mundane.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. The greatest of all the Brontë books. I still cannot bring the story of Cathy and Heathcliff to mind without feeling the tears welling up.
Victoria by Knut Hamsun. I love all of Hamsun's early work, but Victoria edges slightly ahead of Hunger and Pan.
Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges. His 'fictions' are inspired works of genius.
Plain Tales from the Hills by Rudyard Kipling. I do not give a damm about the imperialism, Kipling is one of the great craftsmen of English prose, now sadly underestimated.
Journey the the End of the Night by Celine. Another 'politically incorrect' choice, but a great book.
The Castle by Franz Kafka. Who could ever forget Arthur and Jeremiah?
Short Stories by Guy de Maupassant. All of them, but The Necklace in particular. The irony is heart-breaking.
Animal Farm by George Orwell. Orwell is a far better essayist than novelist, but Animal Farm deserves a place amongst the very best of English political satire.
The Quiet American by Graham Greene. Every American President should be made to read this before taking office.
Le Grand Meaulnes by Alain-Fournier. A little book of outstanding lyrical beauty.
The Last of the Just by André Schwarz-Bart. A book that deserves to be far better known. The last few pages tore my heart out.
La Bas by Joris-Karl Huysmans. Satanism in La Belle Epoch! Worth reading for the insight it gives into the career of Gilles de Rais, all the more horrifying because he really lived.