The Classics

Discussion in 'Other Literature' started by Boreas, May 20, 2016.

  1. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    I'm interested in what you consider to be worthwhile classics that you think deserve to be read. I've chosen the cut-off date to be 1941. So, any works published up to and including the year 1941, not after.

    Edit: I don't necessarily mean works that are considered literary canon, merely classics.
    Last edited: May 23, 2016
  2. Diziet Sma

    Diziet Sma Administrator Staff Member

    Ummm, I think I'm going to skip this one. My formative classical period wasn't in English. I would come up with a very obscure and uninteresting list for most...:confused:
  3. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    Doesn't matter if most of your classics reading wasn't Anglo-centric. That's exactly why I'd like to know! To discover authors and works I might never have considered or even heard about. For example, you mentioned the Inspector Montalbano series of mystery novels by Camilleri and that was a great tip. I don't think I might have come across that particular author on my own, but thanks to your recommendation, I'll be getting the first volume in the near future. So, feel free to mention all the non-Anglo classics you want.

    Two famous classics I definitely feel deserve every accolade they've received and which have had great effect on me, personally, are The Brothers Karamazov (1880) by Dostoyevsky and Anna Karenina (1877) by Tolstoy. Another by Tolstoy that is a favourite of mine is the novella The Death of Ivan Ilyich (1886).
  4. Sparrow

    Sparrow Well-Known Member

    Growing up it was Kipling, RL Stevenson, HG Wells, Conrad, and Verne... sort of the classics of "Boyhood Adventure Stories".
    1. The Man Who Would Be King
    2. Rikki-Tikki-Tavi
    3. Treasure Island
    4. Strange Case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde
    5. War of the Worlds
    6. The Time Machine
    7. Heart of Darkness
    8. The Duel
    9. Journey to the Center of the Earth
    10. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

    Later on in High School it was, To Kill a Mockingbird, Lord of the Flies, 1984, Cannery Row, etc...

    I've never been able to get into the Russian Classics, too overwrought and humorless for my taste... and I hated Moby Dick, even worse was Les Miserables!
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  5. Diziet Sma

    Diziet Sma Administrator Staff Member

    Oh!Motalbano is "deliciously" entertaining. I really hope you enjoy the Sicilian Inspector.

    In my childhood, I devoured Emilio Salgari's books, a SXIX wonderful Italian author. He kept me real busy with The Sandokan Series and many others set in Africa, Asia or Wild West. I believe much of his work hasn't been translated into English.

    [email protected] , I also loved Stevenson Treasure Island.

    @Boreas, I keep very fond memories of Anna Karerina, specially as we studied it in relation with other two major female characters who shared many similarities: Emma Bovary and my favorite The Regenta by Leopoldo Alas Clarín( this is where my obscure list begins...)

    Benito Pérez Galdos: XIX Spanish novelist. He is a true master of realism. Two examples by him: Fortunata and Jacinta, a wonderful portrait of the 1880s Madrid society and Trafalgar, a story belonging to his master piece National Episodes.

    Camilo José Cela wrote, just before your 1941 deadline The Family of Pascual Duarte and after your deadline The Hive. He is being labeled for creating the "tremendism" genre( I'm not sure this word exist in English!?) a step further into realism.

    By F Dostoevsky, I liked it, in a disturbing kind of way, Crime and Punishment.

    Well, hopefully I haven't sent you into siesta mood...
  6. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    I really need to read more Kipling. The Man Who Would Be King was adapted really well for the screen by John Huston (but then, I like just about all of Huston's films). Still haven't read any Wells or Conrad.

    I can understand the imputation for "overwrought" being hurled at Dostoyevsky, but not Tolstoy. I've always felt Tolstoy's writing was simple in essence and flowed quite naturally.
    Nice! Exactly the kind of recommendations I was hoping for. A quick check shows that Clarín, Galdos and Cela all seem to be translated into English. Will look into them more closely later. As for Madame Bovary, it was actually a novel my 18/19 year old self threw down in disgust. I thought it was really "overwrought" as @Sparrow puts it. But I might attempt it again in the future after all these years and see how it goes (...maybe). I've recently come across a new found appreciation for Jane Austen that I didn't have before. And that's also made me think about re-assessing Thomas Hardy, another novelist that I didn't like when I was younger despite having read 2-3 books (can't remember if I finished the third book I was reading at the time). Thomas Hardy was my grandfather's favourite English novelist and that was the main reason I attempted him.

    As for Anna Karenina, I love the book! It's a beautiful story that presents a grand sweep of Russian life through two opposing focal points: a woman shrugging off all the conventions of society, seemingly with a selfish disregard; and a man embracing his role in society with all its attendant responsibilities and striving for harmony between himself and others. How Tolstoy juxtaposes these interlinked stories to present values that are both time-/geographically-bound and also universal is very impressive. I found Anna's plot interesting for a lot of reasons, but I also found her insufferable. Levin's story had me enraptured.

    Funnily, I came to like the character Emma Woodhouse this time around precisely because I was contrasting her with other characters like Anna Karenina but also Edna Pontellier (from The Awakening) to some extent. Emma was a book that I had particularly disliked the first time I read it. In comparing Emma to Anna, I found Emma to be preferable and a far more appealing heroine even though she's initially presented as quite insufferable herself. But Emma matures where Anna does not. I get that the comparison can't be this simplistic because a lot of factors are different, but still...
  7. Diziet Sma

    Diziet Sma Administrator Staff Member

    Madame Bovary was a real struggle for me too. I wouldn't have finished, if it hadn't been part of this female triangle study I was taking part in. If fact, I remember reading it "diagonally" in order to get through it "rápido-rápido". Anna Karerina was, on the other hand, a pleasure to read. I always thought that Anna could fit rather well into the borderline personality disorder. I din't find her very likeable, her stoical disregard for everyone and everything turned her, in my opinion, into a rather selfish, arrogant, paradoxically dispassionate character.

    By Austen, I have only read, and liked very much, Pride and Prejudice. However, it was Bronte's Jane Eyre who really impacted me at the time( around 20ish years ago...!) I also read the so called prequel Wide Sargasso Sea by J Rhys

    Thomas Hardy, The Mayor of Casterbride: this was a book my english teacher challenged me to read, and I naively took the bait. I should have know better! I don't think my English level was up for it. Despite the fact I was very much engaged with the dramatic storyline, I found the richness in his vocabulary as well as the endless descriptions very difficult and exhausting. I lacked the language skills and definitely I lacked patience. While reading it, I remember coming across the verb "to toil" and learning its meaning: without any doubt I toiled my way through his novel. I haven't picked another one by Hardy since...

    @Boreas, you are really good at distracting me from my TBR path;) After finishing The Fall of Hyperion, I picked up a crime novel after discussing with you the topic. Now you've got me thinking into choosing something classic. Good God, I am like the donkey following the carrot...!
  8. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    As for Madame Bovary, I won't say anything except that it's probably the one book that aggravated my sensibilities so much I've almost come to hate it for what it represents - an exercise in self indulgence. I don't care if it's considered the prime example of a work that elevated the novel from 'mere' story-telling device to, supposedly, the heights of artistry. It was frustrating as hell. So, maybe I won't attempt it again. Or maybe I'll wait till the next time more than 3 planets align in our system.

    And, yes! I feel the same way about Anna! She was absolutely insufferable. Before I re-read Austen's Emma, I actually thought I preferred Anna when comparing the two precisely because she was a naturally base creature, too unaware to even question her egotistical and selfish nature. Instead, Emma was highly intelligent but almost wilfully negligent of the effect her own selfish actions had on others. So, when comparing someone emotionally and psychologically stunted to someone intelligent and self-aware, I naturally found Emma's actions more transgressive. But, like I've mentioned, with my recent re-read, I've come to like Emma more. I'd forgotten how, slowly but surely, she realises the faults in her thinking and actions and takes measures to correct herself. Anna was lost in her capricious id, and not even willing to attempt a modicum of restraint or self-reflection. I disdain her as a character, but Tolstoy told her story with skill.
    Pride and Prejudice is definitely fun, and it's understandable why it caught the general public's eye as it did. Who doesn't love a tension filled tête-à-tête between adversaries? But fun as those scenes are for the antagonism between potential romantic partners, I appreciated it much more this time around for some of the subtle, underlying societal norms these sessions exposed and how each of the characters had incorporated (or dismissed) some of those values in their own particular ways.

    I didn't read Jane Eyre. I did read her sister's Wuthering Heights and quite liked it despite the purple prose. Actually, it's one of the few times that I've enjoyed such prose mixed with its Gothic and Romantic sensibilities.
    That's the first Hardy novel I read, but I can't remember much except for the barest outline.
    Mua hahahaha!
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  9. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    I've always been fond of Jack London's frontier adventure stories. I read Call of the Wild and White Fang many times as a kid and consider them essential classics. My favourite short story by London that I've read is the famous "To Build a Fire". I had to read this one for school and it's probably his most anthologised story. It's the one I remember most vividly out of all the other London shorts I read as a 12-/13-year old.
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  10. Diziet Sma

    Diziet Sma Administrator Staff Member

    These two books made me think immediately of James O Curwood with Kazan and Baree, Son of Kazan. I'm not sure whether these are considered a classic but I loved them as a child and because of it, I really wanted to own a wolf and falling that, moving to Alaska. Needless to say I wasn't allowed either...
  11. Diziet Sma

    Diziet Sma Administrator Staff Member

    I have just finished They Were Counted by Miklós Bánnfy. This has been my first encounter with a Hungarian classic and it has been highly enjoyable and rewarding.
    Bánnfy is one of these writers who has the ability to discern current affairs and foretell what is to come with a remarkable exactitude; similar in a way to Giusepe Tomasi di Lampedusa or Stefan Zweig.
    Bánnfy describes, at the beginning of SXX, the degeneration and fall of the hungarian nobility, due to historical circumstances as well as to its own vices and defects. Bánnfy was part himself of this elite and, as a Foreign Minister, enjoyed a privileged life along spring racing season, partridge shooting, deer-culling, cards games, balls and other social events, which were intimately part of the hungarian nobility lifestyle. As one of his characters mentioned, Bálint Abády, there were very few who committed themselves to be a full time politician. This was hardly surprising considering the impossibility of marrying the political life with the social one: "As far as most of the upper classes were concerned, politics were of little importance, for there were plenty of other things that interested them more"

    What I found most enjoyable about TWC was the ability Bánnfy displays in interweaving the political situation with the dramatic story of the two male characters. The psychological portrait is complex and beautifully significant, as it exudes with all the social conventions of its era: just over one hundred years ago but somehow it feels much further back in time. Bánnfy’s style feels uncomplicated, echt and it depicts in clever detail the social and political tear, which will eventually lead to the break of WWI and the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

    This is the first book in The Transylvanian Trilogy. I will continue with They Were Found Wanting in a little while...
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  12. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    This actually reminds me of the Radetzky March (1932) by Joseph Roth. It also chronicles a decline, but of the Habsburg Empire. And not just through two male characters, but three generations of the Trotta family and their rise to the aristocracy during a time of increasing political and social degeneration.
  13. Diziet Sma

    Diziet Sma Administrator Staff Member

    I haven’t read Radetzky March but I guess Roth’s Viennese perspective about the irreconcilable differences between the Austrians and the Hungarians would differ considerably from Bánffy’s…
  14. Diziet Sma

    Diziet Sma Administrator Staff Member

    I have just started Closely Watched Trains a novella by Czech author Bohumil Hrabal. I have only read about 20% of the story but I can tell it is a beautiful portray of a young railroad apprentice during the German occupation of Czechoslovakia.
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  15. hrafnwasser

    hrafnwasser Well-Known Member

    I would recommend Herman Hesse, although The Glass Bead Game falls, I think, just outside your 1941 cut off.
    Knulp and Peter Camenzind are seemingly gentle and yet provoking works.
    Steppenwolf is not an easy read but in writing this I've decided to re-read, since its a long while since I first read it.
    Siddharta is writing influenced by Buddhism and Hesse's interest in eastern philosophy.

    Since I have only a smattering of german I've read them only in translation.
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  16. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    Siddharta was a wonderful novel and quite influential on me during my teenage years together with Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (both classic and required reading for the teenager), but I feel I've grown out of it. I started The Glass Bead Game last year, but after the first chapter put it away...I realised I was not in the mood for anything too dense at the time.

    Can you or anyone else guess why I might have chosen that particular year as the cut-off date?
  17. Kanly

    Kanly Well-Known Member

    The US declared war on Germany in 1941. That factoid immediately came to my head, but I'm guessing that's not the reason.
  18. Kanly

    Kanly Well-Known Member

    I love these books. All of them were childhood favourites!

    And The Three Musketeers! Can't ask for a more perfect combination of action, adventure, drama and humor!
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  19. Diziet Sma

    Diziet Sma Administrator Staff Member

    Borges published his Ficciones in 1941. I guess this is not the right answer...
  20. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    I didn't know the year Ficciones was published, but in a round-about manner, it sort of reinforces my reasoning for the choice of 1941 being the cut-off date.

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