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.


  1. EMMA does so remind me of you!

    Joyce's ULYSSES is also one of my favourite books too. It is certainly one of the greatest novels written in the twentieth century. I have several favourite bits. Here is one of them in 2 parts (from the brilliantly adapted film version BLOOM): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RjH8ns1N9uw

    My favourite work by Greene is probably The End of the Affair. I love the ground-shattering depiction of the bitterness of reality in the book - 'This is a record of hate far more than of love.'

    Some other books I love are as follows: The Holy Quran (the celebrated fifteenth century scholar and author so rightly said 'Everything is based on the Quran'), Revelation Rationality Knowledge & Truth, The White Goddess (a book which has infuenced me immensely and led me to understand my beliefs more clearly than ever before. A book I initially dared not approach due to its rather foreboding subtitle 'A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth'), Loitering with intent by Peter O' Toole (for its inimitable style, humour, delivery and deliverance), LONDON - The Biography (Unarguably the Biography), A Christmas Carol by Dickens (for its most correct portrayal of human passion and the Christmas spirit), my other favourite Dickens novel is Little Dorrit, Harry Potter (for the magic), Fasting Feasting by Anita Desai, Shakespeare & the Goddess of Complete Being by Ted Hughes. His magnum opus outside of the Hughes poetical cannon. Hughes alone had a right to address this subject to stand alongside Graves' White Goddess whose fate he had lived, not once but twice! Hughes' hands would burst with blood when he wrote this book (as witnessed on one occasion by Sir Andrew Motion himself), he blamed the Muse/Goddess for reeking revenge on him in the form of cancer for writing it.

  2. Yes, I'm Emma; make no mistake about that!

    That's a good list, dear Rehan.

  3. Add to that Brideshead Revisited and Vile Bodies.

    Yes Anna, you are Emma, which fool could possibly dare to doubt it. You are also the imp and the Triple tongued Muse of Truth.