Brings forth the fiftieth and last of its great novels of the twentieth century, a resolutely head-spinning inquisition of a book by Italo Calvino, one that keeps introducing a novel titled If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler. In this, the coldest week in Munich in twenty years, the series not only takes notice of the weather, it refuses to end, spiraling instead into this ouroboros of a book.
Over the last four weeks, the editors have toyed with the readers and the season, jumping from Peter Hoeg’s tale of Greenlanders in Denmark, Smilla’s Sense of Snow, to the hothouse of colonial Vietnam in Margeurite Duras’ slender, tender The Lover, and now, of course, to Calvino’s winter night.
I’ve read not quite 30 of the books in the set; unfortunately, the long ones are the ones that are still to com. Or perhaps fortunately, I’ll be savoring them for longer. But I will miss the sense of making progress through the lot, and the punch of works such as Coup de Grace, Heart of Darkness or Voices of Marrakesh owes a good bit to their compactness, to their verbal and artistic tightness.
I hope to have some more capsule reviews up soon, but to wrap up the series, a few facts and figures.
Male authors: 46 Female authors: 4
Rough geographic origin —
American: Paul Auster, William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Patricia Highsmith, John Irving, Carson McCullers, John Steinbeck
Argentine: Julio Cortazar
Austrian: Thomas Bernhard, Peter Handke, Arthur Schnitzler
Belgian: Georges Simenon, Marguerite Yourcenar
British: E.M. Forster, Graham Greene, Somerset Maugham, Ian McEwan, Oscar Wilde
Canadian: Michael Ondaatje
Czech: Franz Kafka
Danish: Peter Hoeg
Dutch: Harry Mulisch, Cees Nooteboom
French: Marguerite Duras, Julien Green, Marcel Proust, Claude Simon,
German: G?nter Grass, Uwe Johnson, Eduard von Keyserling, Wolfgang Koeppen, Siegfried Lenz, Rainer Maria Rilke, Botho Strau?, Martin Walser
Irish: James Joyce
Italian: Italo Calvino, Umberto Eco, Primo Levi
Ladino: Elias Canetti (a problematic identification)
Polish: Jurek Becker, Joseph Conrad, Andrzej Szczypiorski
Spanish: Jorge Semprun
Swiss: Friedrich D?rrenmatt, Max Frisch, Hermann Hesse
Uruguayan: Juan Carlos Onetti
Year of publication:
Before 1900: 1 (Dorian Gray; don’t know why it’s in a “20th century novel” list…)