Friday, February 16, 2007

Top 10

This looks like a very interesting book. More than a hundred writers pick up their top 10 books. Complete Review has more details.

Well, I still haven't read so many great books but so far my top 10 looks like this...

  1. In Search of Lost Time: Marcel Proust*
  2. Don Quixote: Miguel de Cervantes
  3. The Castle: Franz Kafka
  4. Dead Souls: Nikolai Gogol
  5. Notes from Underground: Fyodor Dostoevsky
  6. Speak, Memory: Vladimir Nabokov
  7. Gulliver's Travels: Jonathan Swift
  8. The Red and the Black: Stendhal
  9. Tristram Shandy: Laurence Sterne
  10. Eugene Onegin: Alexander Pushkin
*I have read only the first three volumes but I am still sure of its place on top 10.

It is a very eurocentric list (though personally, like the great Russians on my list, I don't consider Russia to be a part of Europe). Also no women writers...

And based on the 400 pages that I have read so far Man Without Qualities might be somewhere on the list too. Somewhere around 4.


Anonymous said...

Not bad. Although I always thought that making a list of best novels of all time was a marvelous waste of time and energy. Not individual lists since that's separate. But group lists like asking several writers about the greatest novels of all time. It's different with film since that's still young compared to fiction.

Alok said...

Yeah, these lists of best novels are always contestable. It is the old canon debate. Yet, we do need some kind of a canon of great works of art just for reference point, if nothing else. Even deciding a film canon is not so easy. There was a huge row just a few months ago over an article in the film comment magazine...

Individual lists however are expressions of tastes... I love the ironic, witty and satiric tone for example... don't really care for old school psychological realism or novels which look like products of creative writing factories (i.e. conforming to a formulaic structure or style).

antonia said...

nice list...
if I would make one it would be
and so oen...I just couldnt deicde which one is the difficult to do justice to the uniqueness to books that I just refuse to make the decision :)

Alok said...

You have also read a lot many books more than I have. I have fewer books to choose from. :)

actually i didn't think much about the exact ranking... just whatever came to my mind.

Anonymous said...

That Paul Schrader one, that wasn't a film canon that was a Top 50 list. A literature canon like the one Harold Bloom drew up is simply that, a list of fiction or about fiction according to era(then country) which is signficant to literature(poetry, novel, drama).

A canon as far as I'm concerned simply can't rank. That's what I am against. Ranking. Okay 'Don Quixote' is according to most writers the greatest novel ever written does that mean that people should read Quixote but not Anna Karenina, Crime&Punishment, Balzac's Lost Illusions or Old Goriot, Brothers Karamazov. It's simply ridiculous. Canon creating a non-ranked list of great writers is far more useful.

Alok said...

I agree with you. it might be meaningless but still it is an enjoyable exercise. Both reading and making lists. At least I do.

jyothsnay said...

umm..I dnot endorse this whole concept of "Ranking" books/authors as each one of them is distinct an experience and can we quantifiy that felt n touched experiences? "Intanigibility" and "Quantification" are miles apart.I never understood the human's strong penchant for quantifying the apparently unquantifiable....or is it driven by human's much sought after desire to create "convenience" factor in his life,as the herculean task is made much easier by hierarchifying experiences!

Alok said...

yes, it is indeed a desire to simplify... it might be a meaningless task in the end, but while doing it, it does make you think about how much do you value a particular work and why...

Anonymous said...

perhaps you shd read The master and margherita, written by bulgakov.It will tower your list. you might change your mind. i also strongly suggest you know of an english translation of satantango?
i agree. russia must be considered non european.

kubla khan said...

I came across your blog while I was trying to find an English translation of Satantango.I, unfortunately( because am dying to sleep) got stuck here. Hence these early morning words.
I found fascinating similarities with your choices. I recall synchronicity, a phenomenon defined by carl jung. As i kept reading your blog here and there, i knew what your choices wd be, though not always.
We share a love for Nabakov, Russian literature etc. I am reading Sebald these days and have read a lot of spanish translated into english.
I admire Tarkovsky, Bela tarr etc.
The main purpose in posting this comment is to tell you how i enjoyed reading your blog and that if i had energy and will, i wd love to write as well, though i fancy myself as a poet.I mean i do write but cannot post it here. Icd not be bothered somehow.
I must ask you one thing do you manage to read so many books?
I wish i cd. I seek the book. havent found it so far. I recommend middle eastern literature to you as you seem to be unaware of that world.The writers are brilliant and go unrecognized because of the tyranny of empires, of the oppression of languages.I wd suggest mahmoud darwish, kabbani among a few.
I congratulate you on your steadfast and great blog and wish to correspond with you. I call myself kubla khan a la coleridge's poem, as , as a kid i loved 3 lines from the same...( woman waiting for her demon lover etc)
I am also a capricorn and find that whaen i read russian books, i am finally home.

Alok said...

thanks a lot for your comments about the blog! satantango hasn't been translated into english yet. only two of krasznahorkai's books are available in english, melancholy of resistance and war and war.

i haven't read anything from middle eastern literature but it surely is on my map. will come down to before long.

and i have read bulgakov's novel and love it very much. these rankings are never final... any other ten novels could have been there!

thanks again for your encouraging comments.