lunes, 19 de marzo de 2012

The Classics Club


Against my better judgement (I'm feeling a bit curmudgeonly re: blogging these days but am apparently too weak to resist the temptation to create my own reading list for an event I keep reading about elsewhere), I've decided to join The Classics Club hosted by Jillian over at A Room of One's Own.  While I'm going to have to weasel out of sharing any sort of personal thoughts about what constitutes a "classic" or anything like that, what follows is a wish list of 101 titles I'd like to read within the next few years selected with one OULIPO-like language constraint in mind to make things more interesting for me if maybe not for you.
  • Anonymous. La Chanson de Girart de Roussillon (c. 1150 AD).
  • Alas, Leopoldo ("Clarín").  La Regenta [La Regenta] (1884-1885).
  • Alemán, Mateo.  Guzmán de Alfarache [The Rogue: or The Life of Guzmán de Alfarache] (1599 & 1604).
  • Alfonso X.  Cantigas de Santa María [Songs of Holy Mary of Alfonso X, the Wise] (13th century).
  • Andrade, Mário de.  Macunaima [Macunaíma] (1928).
  • Ariosto, Ludovico.  Orlando Furioso [Orlando Furioso] (1516).
  • Bâ, Mariam.  Une si longue lettre [So Long a Letter] (1981).
  • Balzac, Honoré de.  Eugénie Grandet [Eugénie Grandet] (1833).
  • Baroja, Pío.  El árbol de la ciencia [The Tree of Knowledge] (1911).
  • Baudelaire, Charles.  Les fleurs du mal [The Flowers of Evil] (1857).
  • Beauvoir, Simone de.  Le deuxième sexe [The Second Sex] (1949).
  • Benet, Juan.  Volverás a Región [Return to Región] (1967). *read but not reviewed
  • Boccaccio, Giovanni.  The Decameron [Il Decamerone] (c. 1350).
  • Boiardo, Matteo Maria.  Orlando Innamorato: Orlando in Love [Inamoramento de Orlando] (1495).
  • Borges, Jorge Luis.  Ficciones (1944).
  • Breton, André.  Nadja [Nadja] (1928).
  • Buzzati, Dino.  The Tartar Steppe [Deserto dei tartari] (1945).
  • Calvino, Italo.  Invisible Cities [Le città invisibili] (1972).
  • Camões, Luis de.  The Lusiads [Os Lusíadas] (1572).
  • Carpentier, Alejo.  Los pasos perdidos [The Lost Steps] (1953).
  • Casas, Bartolomé de las.  Brevísima relación de la destrucción de las Indias [A Brief Account of the Destruction of the Indies] (1552).
  • Castelo Branco, Camilo.  Mistérios de Lisboa (1853).
  • Castro, Américo.  La realidad histórica de España (1954).
  • Cela, Camilo José.  La colmena [The Beehive] (1951). *read but not reviewed
  • Corneille, Pierre.  Le Cid (1637).
  • Cortázar, Julio.  Bestiario (1951).
  • Dante.  La Vita Nuova [The New Life] (1295).
  • Deledda, Grazia.  The Church of Solitude [La chiesa della solitudine] (1936).  *read but not reviewed
  • Delibes, Miguel.  Cinco horas con Mario (1966).
  • Díaz-Mas, Paloma (editor).  Romancero (2001).
  • Duby, Georges.  The Age of Cathedrals: Art and Society 980-1420 [Le Temps des cathédrales: L'art et la societé, 980-1420] (1976).
  • Eça de Queirós, José Maria de.  The Maias [Os Maias] (1888).
  • Erauso, Catalina.  Historia de la Monja Alférez, Catalina de Erauso, escrita por ella misma [Lieutenant Nun: Memoir of a Basque Transvestite in the New World] (1626).
  • Fernández, Macedonio.  Museo de la novela de la Eterna [The Museum of Eterna's Novel] (1967, posthumous).
  • Flaubert, Gustave.  L'Education sentimentale [Sentimental Education] (1869).
  • Fuentes, Carlos.  La muerte de Artemio Cruz [The Death of Artemio Cruz] (1962).
  • Galdós, Benito Pérez.  Fortunata y Jacinta [Fortunata and Jacinta] (1887).
  • Gallegos, Rómulo.  Doña Bárbara (1929).
  • Garcilaso de la Vega, el Inca.  Comentarios reales de los Incas [Royal Commentaries of the Incas] (c. 1617).
  • Gide, André.  Les caves du Vatican [Lafcadio's Adventures] (1914).
  • Guimarães Rosa, João.  Gran Sertón: Veredas #1 & #2 [Grande sertão: veredas; The Devil to Pay in the Backlands] (1956).
  • Hernández, José.  Martín Fierro (1872 & 1879).
  • Jarry, Alfred.  Ubu Roi [Ubu the King] (1896).
  • Juana Inés de la Cruz, Sor.  Poesía lírica (17th century).
  • Laclos, Choderlos de.  Les liasions dangereuses [Dangerous Liasions] (1782).
  • Lafayette, Madame de.  La Princesse de Clèves [The Princesse de Clèves] (1678).
  • Laye, Camara.  The Radiance of the King [Le Regarde du roi] (1954).
  • Levi, Primo.  Se questo è un uomo [If This Is a Man; Survival in Auschwitz] (1947).
  • Llull, Ramon.  Blanquerna (c. 1283).
  • Lope de Vega.  El caballero de Olmedo (c. 1620).
  • Lorris, Guillaume de and Jean de Meun.  The Romance of the Rose [Le roman de la rose] (c. 1230 & c. 1275).
  • Machado, Antonio.  Campos de Castilla (1910-1917).
  • Machado de Assis, Joaquim Maria.  Quincas Borba [Quincas Borba] (1891).
  • Mansilla, Lucio V.  Una excursión a los indios ranqueles [A Visit to the Ranquel Indians] (1870).
  • Manzoni, Alessandro.  The Betrothed [I Promessi Sposi] (1827).
  • March, Ausiàs.  Cants de mort [Chants de mort] (c. 1450).
  • Marsé, Juan.  Si te dicen que caí [The Fallen] (1973).
  • Martín Gaite, Carmen.  Entre visillos [Behind the Curtains] (1957).
  • Martínez Estrada, Ezequiel.  Radiografía de la pampa [X-Ray of the Pampa] (1933).
  • Martorell, Joanot.  Tirant lo Blanch [Tirant lo Blanc] (1490).
  • Mendoza, Eduardo.  La verdad sobre el caso Savolta [The Truth About the Savolta Case] (1975).
  • Menéndez Pidal, Ramón.  Poesía juglaresca y juglares.  Orígenes de las literaturas románicas (1957).
  • Metge, Bernat.  Lo Somni (1399).
  • Montaigne, Michel de.  Essays [Essais] (c. 1595).
  • Morante, Elsa.  History: A Novel [La storia] (1974).
  • Nerval, Gérard de.  Aurélia [Aurelia] (1855).
  • Onetti, Juan Carlos.  La vida breve [A Brief Life] (1950).
  • Ovid.  Metamorphoses (c. 8: a reread).
  • Parra, Nicanor.  Poemas y antipoemas [Poems and Antipoems] (1954).
  • Parra, Teresa de la.  Las memorias de Mamá Blanca [Mama Blanca's Memoirs] (1929).
  • Pessoa, Fernando.  The Book of Disquiet [Livro do Desassossego] (1982, posthumous).
  • Petrarch.  Il Canzoniere [The Canzoniere, or, Rerum vulgarium fragmenta] (1327-1368).
  • Pirandello, Luigi.  The Late Mattia Pascal [Il Fu Mattia Pascal] (1904).
  • Pla, Josep.  El quadern gris (1966).
  • Poniatowska, Elena.  La noche de Tlateloloco [Massacre in Mexico] (1971).
  • Proust, Marcel.  The Guermantes Way [Le Côté de Guermantes] (1920-1921).
  • Quevedo, Francisco de.  Los sueños (1627).
  • Rabelais, François.  Gargantua and Pantagruel (c. 1550).
  • Riquer, Martín de (editor).  Los trovadores.  Historia literaria y textos (1975).
  • Rivers, Elías L. (editor).  Poesía lírica del Siglo de Oro (1979).
  • Roa Bastos, Augusto.  Yo el Supremo #1, #2, #3 & #4 [I, the Supreme] (1974).
  • Robbe-Grillet, Alain.  The Voyeur [Le Voyeur] (1955).
  • Rodoreda, Mercè.  Mirall trencat [A Broken Mirror] (1973).
  • Roig, Jaume.  Espill o El Llibre de les dones (c. 1460).
  • Roig, Montserrat.  El temps de les cireres (1977).
  • Rojas, Fernando de.  La Celestina [Celestina] (1499).
  • Rulfo, Juan.  El Llano en llamas [The Burning Plain] (1953).  *read but not reviewed
  • Saer, Juan José.  El entenado [The Witness] (1983).
  • Sarmiento, Domingo Faustino.  Facundo.  Civilización y barbarie [Facundo: Civilization and Barbarism] (1845).
  • Sembène, Ousmane.  Les bouts de Bois de Dieu [God's Bits of Wood] (1960).
  • Senghor, Léopold Sédar.  Anthologie de la nouvelle poésie negre et malgache de langue française (1948).
  • Sévigné, Marquise de.  Selected Letters [Correspondance] (1725).
  • Stendhal.  Le rouge et le noir [The Red and the Black] (1833).
  • Teresa de Jesús.  Libro de la vida [The Autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila: The Life of St. Teresa of Jesus (1515-1582)] (1565).
  • Tirso de Molina.  El burlador de Sevilla [The Trickster of Seville] (c. 1630).
  • Tusquets, Esther.  El mismo mar de todos los veranos [The Same Sea as Every Summer] (1978).
  • Unamuno, Miguel de.  Del sentimiento trágico de la vida [Tragic Sense of Life] (1913).
  • Vargas Llosa, Mario.  La casa verde [The Green House] (1966). *read but not reviewed
  • Vittorini, Elio.  Conversations in Sicily [Conversazione in Sicilia] (1941).
  • Yourcenar, Marguerite.  Mémoires d'Hadrien [Memoirs of Hadrian] (1951).
  • Zola, Emile.  Thérèse Raquin [Thérèse Raquin] (1867).

61 comentarios:

  1. I love our last sentence, "to make things more interesting for me if maybe not for you."; reminds me of the WWI song:

    The Bells of Hell go ting-a-ling-a-ling
    For you but not for me:
    For me the angels sing-a-ling-a-ling,
    They've got the goods for me.
    Oh! Death, where is thy sting-a-ling-a-ling?
    Oh! Grave, thy victory?
    The Bells of Hell go ting-a-ling-a-ling
    For you but not for me.

    And yes, weaseling out indeed! That's the whole problem for me with any sort of classics readalong:

    The books may be classic, you see
    For you but not for me.

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    1. I'd actually thought about softening the blow of that last sentence, Jill, but then gave up after I couldn't think of anything nice to say. However, who could have anticipated that my surliness would inspire you to burst out in song?!? Re: your last couplet, touché!

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  2. I was tempted to start a non English Classics Club in a spirite of protest. Every time I read one of those lists I'm taken aback. They normally consist to 80% of British or American books. That could give you the impression classic equals English. I'm glad you challenege the concept.

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    1. I agree with you. In fact, for sometime I never even thought of any non-English book as a classic. And this list is great in its opposition to such thought. Love it.

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    2. *Caroline and Nana: I completely understand. Going by some of the lists out there (and not just from bloggers either), you'd think that 75-80% of all "classics" ever published were written in English during the last two centuries. Very strange.

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    3. I understand the sentiment--although I'm participating, I'm seeing a LOT of the same books over and over. I think the problem is most of us just don't have a familiarity with books outside of the American/British traditions. I'm excited every time I see new-to-me translated titles on Classics Club lists; I think this could really help to make us aware of other literatures.

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    4. I'd guess that you're probably on to something with the lack of familiarity explanation, Amanda, but looking at most people's lists still makes me feel that almost everybody's an English major in their tastes with nobody filling the role of the classicist or the French major or the history major or anything like that. What, no Comp Lit, anyone?!? I'm generalizing here, of course, and I realize that you and Bettina are among the exceptions in this regard, but I still find the sameness of the lists a little puzzling. Anyway, it'll be fun to see if the trend continues or if newcomers to the Classics Club will bring in divergent sets of interest over time.

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    5. I sometimes wonder if there's a bit more of follow the pack mentality among people than we really like to admit! Actually, I would consider my own list pretty much part of the crowd: other than the 20th cent. Spanish titles, I think most of mine are pretty standard. For my part, and I suspect for a lot of people, there are a lot of classics from the English language tradition that we simply haven't read, and I think sometimes people (I) feel that we (I) need to read these sort of "common currency" books. (This of course could lead into the whole "Western Canon" messy debate.)

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    6. I understand, and I do the same thing with many "common currency" books in Spanish so I certainly wouldn't fault anyone for doing that in any other language whatsoever. However, I'm still curious where all the "non-English majors" are hanging out in terms of the Classics Club membership. I wish I could check out Caroline's, Tom's, and Obooki's lists, for example, because I'm sure that I'd find some less-common choices than I've seen so far. Check out Obooki's link last down below for a guide to a staggering variety of lists from countries all over the world. Eye-popping!

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  3. This is an enviable list. I've also struggled with what classic is.

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    1. I might beef up the list a little, Nana. It was originally going to include 101 titles, but I got partied out about halfway through the process!

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  4. Hi Richard. There was no need to explain what constitutes a classic. Just to list your choices. :)

    Welcome!

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    1. Thanks for the welcome, Jillian, and what a relief about my lack of obligations!

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  5. Professional critics rarely use the word "classics." I try to avoid it myself. They, and I, sort by period, language, tradition, technique - and quality, definitely quality.

    Has anybody made a list of the 50 actual classics they plan to read during the next three years, a list of Greek and Roman and Chinese and Sanskrit works?

    The 1954 N. Parra Poemas y antipoemas is unfortunately not the same as the translation you have listed (unfortunate because of the appealing English title). That one compiles later work. The English of the older book is just Poems and Antipoems (I think).

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    1. One of the many funny things about the "classics" tag, Tom, is that you can't really agree that a work is a classic until you've actually read it. The Iliad and The Odyssey probably seem like surefire classics to most in the West, but would they be viewed the same by people in Africa or Asia with other literary traditions? Can't answer that one. In any event, there are some Greek and Roman classics on these lists but very little in the way of works from other non-Euro/non-U.S. traditions or pre-modern works in general oddly enough. Most of the lists are what you might expect--Austen, Dickens, the Brontë sisters, a token French or Russian giant--with the occasional surprise here or there. The homogenity is kind of depressing actually. As is your (still-much appreciated) correction about the Parra translation title: I'll fix that in a moment, but man, didn't Antipoems: How to Look Better and Feel Great look good up there for a while?!? Thanks for the info anyway.

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  6. If I cannot agree that The Iliad and Ramayana and Take of Genji are classics without having read them then I have a fundamental misunderstanding about how literary traditions function.

    I mean, who cares what I think about Classical Chinese poetry, whether I like it? For the designation of classic to have any meaning, it has to be about what other people think.

    Perhaps I should have capitalized - I meant "50 actual Classics."

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    1. I agree with you to a point, Tom, and obviously it's easier to agree that certain works are "classics" than others. Where I differ from you is that I'm not sure I necessarily trust enough in what other people think to want to use that as a litmus test for validation of "classic status": why is H. Rider Haggard a classic to some people when the Torquemada Galdós novels that Dwight's been reviewing on his blog are not? I can't really tell that either author is a worthwhile classic author until I read them for myself, but I'm willing to bet that Galdós will be way more a classic writer to me than H.R. Haggard was in She for example.

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    2. Because a classic becomes a classic within its tradition. Haggard, who is godawful, absolutely, is a classic in the fantasy/adventure tradition, and is still much-read, copied, and parodied. Galdós is a classic of Spanish literature, within the Spanish literary tradition, meaning his books are still active for readers and writers in the Spanish tradition. But Galdós has had basically no impact on English literary history.

      The cases like Shakespeare or Cervantes or Kafka, where books expand past their linguistic origin into other literary traditions, are fascinating but rare.

      What I advocate, gently, I hope, is for readers to become conversant with multiple literary traditions. If I get interested in Spanish literature, I don't go to the English department to explore, but to the Spanish department. If I get interested in fantasy, I go ask people who read and write fantasy. Different traditions give me different answers about which books are the good ones. As they should.

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    3. I think most of what you say here makes a lot of sense (esp. about Haggard being a classic of godawful crap!), and I particularly like the suggested methodology of going to the Spanish department for Spanish literature advice and the English department for English literature advice. Grad reading lists, like the one you forwarded to Jillian at her blog yesterday, have long been a useful book-finding tool for me even if they're often slow to reflect current trends and/or incorporate recent titles into their respective canons. Becoming conversant with multiple literary traditions is a great goal, and you and the other bloggers I know who try to do this have much more interesting blogs as a result (I'm aware that there are a number of high quality "specialist" blogs as well, but I imagine that being informed about other traditions can only help and never hurt whatever your pet specialty of choice).

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  7. Good for you on taking the plunge and listing your plans. I go off on tangents too often to feel comfortable saying I will read x by y date. Which is a nice way of saying I'm flighty.

    I've sworn off challenges for now, subject to change, of course. Although I do like the open-ended time restraint here--you set the goal date. Looking forward to reading about the books on your list over the next few years.

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    1. Dwight, I fought against taking the plunge and then caved in anyway (my manifestation of being flighty). At worst, this will be a horrible public reminder of how many more male than female writers are calling my name. At best, maybe I will actually read some of these books one of these days rather than just listing them.

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  8. I think Tom makes an excellent (but sad) point that "For the designation of classic to have any meaning, it has to be about what other people think." Because it is also true that conventional definitions are very English-language oriented (not to mention white and male of course). I even had someone insist to me that the Spanish didn't know how to write because, except for Don Quixote, there were no "classics" by them. (It's sort of a common past-time in Arizona to denigrate the hispanic culture, but the speaker could have concluded the same about Africans or fill-in-the-non-English blanks)

    I also would have to agree with Tom's point that whether any one individual has read a book should not matter about its designation as classic, because after all, it is impossible for one individual to read all possible books in order to pass judgment.

    However, just because I agree with Tom's points doesn't mean I like them or that they make me happy.

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    1. Jill, the problem I have with the "it has to be about what other people think" argument is that it begs the question: which other people? Who gets to decide? If it's the sort of people who use the Don Quixote "logic" in your anecdote, that's only going to keep perpetuating the myths of cultural superiority by those sorts of people. Note: I don't imagine that most bloggers feel this way; however, I do sometimes wonder why there's such a huge crush on English-language literature whenever the subject of classics is broached in the book blog world. I'd like to better understand why that is, which is one of the reasons I'm pleased that this has turned into such an interesting discussion today. Even when you and Tom gang up on me, ha ha. Cheers!

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  9. Caroline, Look what you have done.

    Literary history is very much about the struggle between the present and the past, not just about traditions or conventions being handed down as sacred objects. This is an oblique response to rhapsody's point (meaning, the living are never happy, along this narrow dimension, and never have been).

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    1. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.
      It's a situation worthy to have been included in one of Paul Watzlawick's books. I left a comment as I don't naturally enjoy to cause pain.

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    2. *Tom and Caroline: I'm glad cooler heads prevailed, but I didn't see anything at all wrong with Caroline's comments. Nothing mean was said that I can see, but I'm glad to learn that the misunderstanding has since been turned into an opportunity to talk about the canon over at the Classics Club blog (a very interesting topic for many of us, I assume). I like what you say about literary history being a struggle between the present and the past here, Tom.

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  10. I love this list! (And I'm a little surprised that I have a couple of these titles on my list; I would have assumed you'd read them already!) I'm really excited too, that you set for yourself a language limit, because that really adds in variety, and I think a lot of us just don't know the translated titles. (Yet.) I am sure I will enjoy following along as you read over these titles, as so many of them are tempting to me. (Eek, am I already planning for round two?)

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    1. Thanks, Amanda--I'm glad you got a kick out of the list (it was supposed to be more of a fun thing than a provocation after all)! I look forward to comparing notes with you and Bettina and Lu from Regular Rumination once I finish the updates to my list, but there are millions of books I should have read already that I haven't yet. This is just the tip of the iceberg from one language group. Cheers!

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  11. What an interesting list, Richard! I'm glad to see we share some of the titles we're wanting to tackle since I can't wait to read your thoughts on them.
    As for the discussion of what constitutes a classic... Jillian was very open-minded about it and this is what makes lists such as yours, Richard, possible. I think the fault is not at all with the Classics Club's definition of a classic at all, but perhaps with what some people make of it. On the other hand, I can very much understand the notion that people made these lists in order to get to know their "home turf" of classics (i.e. their own heritage) better. At least this was my motivation and it's why I included mostly books in the languages I can actually read in (with some exceptions). I just feel that this is an opportunity to close some of the gaping holes in my knowledge of Western classics, without prejudice to branching out into other literatures on other occasions.
    The best way, to alert people to the fact that there are other than dead white men's classics around, in my view, is to join in and create lists such as Richard's.
    Wow, that became a long comment. Sorry 'bout that.

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    1. Thanks, Bettina--as always, it'll definitely be fun to compare notes! As for yesterday's kerfuffle, I completely agree that nobody's to blame nor should be to blame over the lack of a definition of what constitutes a "classic." I'm sure everybody would much prefer to define that term for themselves anyway! That being said, I can still very much relate to what Caroline and Nana said about how high a proportion of English language authors appear on various classics lists in relation to authors representing other languages; I don't think there's anything hurtful or confrontational in pointing out that anomaly, and it's not like anybody's prescribing changes to others' reading choices anyway. People can and will read what they want regardless, so I'm not sure why these sorts of discussions about reading habits generate defensiveness among bloggers as often as they do (btw, I agree that people might want to get to know their "home turf" or follow up on any number of other individual reading preferences when compiling a list for any such event). Anyway, thanks for the "long comment" and your mediation efforts elsewhere yesterday; I think it's cool to hear about what drives people's reading choices, so I hope the discussions can continue without too many feathers being ruffled along the way. Cheers!

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  12. a wonderful selection of classics to try and read richard ,all the best stu

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    1. Thanks, Stu. Ironically, putting the list together was a fun but surprisingly time-consuming way to delay actually reading any of these books. Cheers!

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  13. Your listing exercise is inspiring. Made me think when I will finally get the chance to tackle the "four great classical Chinese novels". ^_^

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    1. You know, Rise, that those four and Archimboldi's collected works would have definitely made my list if I hadn't chosen to limit myself to just one reread! :D

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  14. I have a defense of the "why so much English literature" question. The second time in human history when women achieved artistic parity with men (or even superiority), in terms not just of quality but quantity, when there were not just an example of a great woman writer (e.g., Mme de Lafayette) but lots of them, was with the 19th century English novel.

    So for many young women (bloggers, for example) exploring the literature of the past for the first time the body of English novels may look especially rich and welcoming.

    The first time was of course in Japan in the 11th century. Unless some of those anonymous Sanskrit writers were women.

    The best answer to the "who gets to decide" question, by the way, is "writers," at least the better ones, although there is a point where the logic of this answer becomes circular. Perhaps I should write something about this over at my own homestead.

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    1. Tom, I think that's a great possible partial explanation for those who care about the gender of their authors. It also has the additional advantage of being less cynical than one of my own pet theories (i.e. that people are blindly following the roadmaps laid down by guides like 1,001 Books to Read Before You Die). I do see a lot of random comments in the blog world, though, from people claiming they're intimidated by literature in translation or just prefer to stick to the tried and true (Brit and American novels) in terms of their reading preferences. Anyway, I'd love to see some sort of a post from you on these topics and/or hear back from a few more readers about what drives their particular reading interests.

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    2. Adding on to Tom's point, it can be hard for those seeking to find old works in translation by women specifically. I know Katie from Old English Rose set a goal for herself to read 50% female authors and 50% works in translation, but her list ultimately fell a bit short because she didn't find enough. I'm not saying non-English works by women aren't out there, just that if they are it's hard for us to find. I suspect that the English-speaking world's shying away from works in translation comes with a component of ignorance about what's out there.

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    3. *Amanda and Tom: I complicated things for myself somewhat gender balance-wise by my language choices stunt, but the truth is that most of the fiction books I most want to read are male- rather than female-penned anyway (this isn't at all an issue for me for non-fiction for whatever reason). Adding a number of Latin classics, as I wanted to do originally, would have only compounded the problem, so it's nice to hear about Katie's attempt to meet her 50/50 goal. That being said, I still left off a few old works by women writers that I'd considered because I was more interested in titles by others. Those works are out there, Amanda--but I agree that they're harder to find the further you go back in time.

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  15. Who knew - Tom the Empathic.
    I don't think gender biased reading is the source of the choice or there wouldn't be so many men on the lists. Surely, if you include a lot of 20th century writers you would be able to find more women? And there are far more women writers pre-20th in France than Mme de Lafayette.
    But - I guess - unless I would want the same amount of visistor influx my blog has seen since yesterday - I should probably remain silent.

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  16. Well, in reality I am as curmudgeonly as Richard on this subject. Empathy is a real effort.

    Caroline, the story is not that the list-makers are only interested in women writers, but that they are attracted to a period and tradition that is unusually friendly to women writers. "Biased" is the wrong word, completely wrong. The list-makers do in fact include a lot of 20th century writers.

    And please, give me some credit for my periodization! Lafayette does not represent "pre-20th," but 17th. Or are you really recommending Scudéry? Which books? Artamène would certainly keep me busy for a while. Group read!

    The only relevant set of writers here are ones a person might actually want to read, "great woman writers."

    Sévigné might be worth reading, actually. Anyone here read her? Outside of Proust, I mean.

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  17. I was thinking apart from MMe de Lafayette, Marie de France, Christine de Pisan, Marguerite de Navarre, Mme de Sévigné, Catherine Bernard and then some. I studied and specialized in French literature from the Middle Ages to Voltaire. So yes, indeed, I have read them all but not Scudéry, she didn't tempt me. Yeah, bias was maybe strong, still I think if you deliberately only choosing women writers you are gender biased, no?

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  18. Btw - When writing pre 20th, I wanted to include people like George Sand not belittle your periodization effort.
    I think that Mme de Sévigné would be a great group read.

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  19. What's the good Catherine Bernard? She does not seem to have been translated into English since 1691. How irritating.

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  20. Yes, that unfortunately always a risk and a reason I would never want to compile a list - too stressful to look for translations, in any case she is in the vein of the early Mme de Lafayette.

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    Respuestas
    1. *Caroline and Tom: Interesting discussion! I wasn't familiar with Catherine Bernard, but all those other ladies of letters were considered and then rejected for the final cut of the list for space reasons (Christine de Pisan being only a near miss). For whatever it's worth, France produces more female writers of note that I'm eager to read than any other country right now. Female authors also maintain a particularly prominent presence in 20th century Catalan literature--way more than in Castilian, for example, if you go by the hype. I couldn't come up with any major authoress for the Portuguese side of things, at least not any of the stature of the male writers I selected. Hopefully somebody can provide me a corrective for that some day. P.S. to Tom: I suspect readers of a certain type also enjoy the British literary tradition because of the ready availability of movie adaptations featuring the inexplicably popular Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter!

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    2. I am afraid your explanation has a lot more explanatory power than mine.

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  21. If it's women writers you want, you could always read Heian Japanese literature - where woman not merely achieved parity in production, but more or less managed 100%. (I shall be trying to read the rest of what I've got in the second half of the year, incl Genji).

    I take it that was the Oulipo thing eh? No Japanese or Chinese literature, because it's always over-represented in these lists.

    Not sure Boiardo is translated into English. There's an epitome of it in English which is still about 300 pages long. Mad, quiet mad.

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    Respuestas
    1. Obooki, you're on to me with the OULIPO thing! Heian literature (a black hole of knowledge/familiarity for me) is probably only slightly less represented on the lists I've seen than all of Spanish language literature, though: Don Quixote, 100 Years of Solitude and the occasional Borges are the three main choices (when there are any choices) as decided by the consumers.

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  22. I am surprised to discover that the translator of that fine epitome of Boiardo has finished the whole thing. I need to rearrange my reading plans.

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  23. Hmm, all very interesting. Actually I was reading the c19th
    William Stewart Rose version
    , in which he basically just gives you an account of the plot, and every now and then throws in a bit of translation if he thinks it's of note. I thought it worked really well actually - but it did make me wonder: if this is just a plot summary, how long's the real thing?

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  24. Ah, I thought you meant the Oxford World's Classics version by Ross, which is an abridged translation, but which has prose summaries of the omitted parts.

    Boiardo, complete, is still quite a bit shorter than Ariosto.

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    Respuestas
    1. *Tom and Obooki: I'm probably not getting around to Boiardo anytime soon, so if you two want to put together a graphic novel of the hits from Orlando, that would probably suffice for me as long as the same title is maintained. Maybe that way I could also start bonding with the bloggers who always suggest that a good editor could have pared down Moby-Dick to a really strong novella. As for Mme. Sévigné up above, Tom (I missed that then but note the smooth, off-topic transition here), I figure that even if she didn't turn out to be the master stylist that she's cracked up to be, she might still be very interesting for the background to the period she lived in. Haven't decided to try her in French or read her in English (probably the latter), but I'm actually looking forward to finally reading her sometime soon.

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  25. Well, if you're not interested in reading the original, then you could read Virginia Woolf's version, which I think captures it quite well.

    If you're interested in literary lists, you could try this site, which has a truly insane amount of lists - if you start clicking through on things - including links to a few on my website (which is, indeed, how I found it).

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  26. I hope the original Orlando isn't anything like Woolf's since that was not only my least favorite Woolf so far but one of the lamest things I've read since I started blogging. Perfectly dreadful! That site, on the other hand, is just nuts in a totally winning way--should be a great aid to my procrastination, so thanks a bunch for passing along the link.

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  27. That you should write that, Richard, I did start to compile a mental "non-English writing women writers you should read before you die list" - from the Middle Ages to 1950 or so (you may have realized that I try to avoid two tricky terms "foreign" and "classic" and came up mainly with French and Catalan authors (the latter from suggestions from you).I was wondering about Portuguese and Spanish writing authors too.
    I would love to see a list on which there is/are French book(s) but Mme Bovary isn't among them.

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    Respuestas
    1. I'd love to see that "mental" list if you ever decided to share it, Caroline. The collected letters of Catherine of Siena is another older work I considered early on and then (unfortunately perhaps) completely forgot about while I was slapping the post together--don't know if it would have made the list in the end, but I understand her 14th century Tuscan prose has a lot of punch and vitality. Are you familiar with her? I imagine she'd be interesting just for the historical context alone. Margery Kempe's The Book of Margery Kempe would be a super title for anyone looking for an entertaining medieval autobiography in English, and there are also all those female mystics to take note of (though I can't vouch for hardly any of their writings from personal experience alas).

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  28. Oh hi. (rubbing eyes). Did I miss anything the last few days?

    Good heavens = what a terrific conversation. Forget the group read; everyone just come up with his or her own classics list like Richard's and meet back here at midnight. We can get this string of comments to the moon!

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    1. Thanks, Scott--I was hoping you'd show up (and yeah, the comments/discussions thus far have almost made it worth setting myself up for failure in public like this, ha ha). Would be very interested in seeing some sort of a list from you if you don't come to your senses before then; however, I also wanted to tell you, the Banffy man, that I'd toyed with the idea of adding his Transylvanian Trilogy to the mix since I'll be reading it in Spanish, but then I eventually decided that I shouldn't do that since it wasn't really written in one of the "approved" languages. What do you think? Should I have bent the rules for the Count? Cheers!

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  29. Oh go on, Richard, bend the rules! Let yourself go wild!

    I'd love to try to come up with a list like this, but this one already puts to shame whatever I could possibly engineer. I'm already stealing from it liberally for my to-be-read list, thanks.

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