Best 100 Novels of c20th (acc. to the French)

Another list, yes! – In contrast to this ridiculous Anglo-centric list of the best novels of c20th, there’s another list compiled by Le Monde here.

Well, OK, it’s with a slightly different basic criterion: – the most memorable novels of the c20th; – a criterion I do tend to use myself in my own dubious grading system (especially for downgrading novels a few months after I’ve read them, when it occurs to me that I can’t remember a thing about them any more).

The Wikipedia intro mentions Beigbeder pontificating on the curiously Franco-centric nature of the list: no doubt in the great tradition of c20th intellectuals putting forward the bleeding obvious as profound thought. -Maybe he’s not seen the English/American list, which goes a whole step further by ignoring anything originally in a foreign language. – The English books are pretty similar (apart from the odd crime novel – ah yes, the French have always liked crime novels); the French books give me a few ideas (I’ve got Boris Vian’s Froth on the Daydream – perhaps I should read it); the other language books are entirely predictable.

Camus’ The Stranger top? – Hmm. – The only thing I remember about it was thinking it would have been a better novel if he hadn’t been guilty anyway. That just seemed to defeat the point; – though perhaps I never understood the point, it’s entirely possible. – I can’t get away though from the idea that the list was entirely compiled by a group of well-educated French teenagers, eager to impress.


Ahh, I’ll put up some posts with thoughts in them soon. I had in mind some “literary death-matches” – a sort of (half-arsed) comparative analysis.

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10 thoughts on “Best 100 Novels of c20th (acc. to the French)

  1. The Modern Library list is ridiculous, despite containing many great novels, whereas the Le Monde list is funny, despite containing some ludicrous titles. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd? Really?

    The “Reader’s List” on the Modern Library site is a doozy. L Ron Hubbard and Ayn Rand provide 6 of the top 10. Their followers may be reactionary illiterates, but they sure know how to organise.

  2. I had to look up who the hell Charles de Lint was, who gets about 6 books into that list. Obviously his followers are not quite as organised as Rand and Hubbard, or he’d be further up.

  3. The first sentence of his Wikipedia entry must be one of the most ominous imaginable: “Charles de Lint is a Canadian fantasy author and Celtic
    folk musician.”

    I look forward to the death matches….

  4. Ah yes, fantasy: – the genre that even people who liked to defend genres won’t defend. – I do feel inclined though to pick up some Robert Heinlein, if ever I come upon any – I’m intrigued how you could as it were reverse-engineer Starship Troopers into a novel.

  5. That ML reader list is basically an epic battle between standard American high school summer reading lists and what kids read to spite those lists (or parents, teachers, authorities). Of course, with the current winds of conservatism sweeping the land, you be hard pressed to figure out which books constitute which side of that battle.

    (Don’t let good Damien G Walter see those ML lists…)

  6. Do you think those lists would confirm for DGW that SF novels were being systematically neglected by the literati and their worth only recognised by honest to goodness readers of books; – or do you think he’d discover in those lists the idea that SF novels are in fact being puffed up out of proportion by a small coterie of obsessive loons frustrated that the rest of the world doesn’t agree with their opinion?

  7. That’s quite the rhetorical question. Well, one would hope for the latter reaction, but even so, he’d probably counter that the SF listed represents a very narrow range. But considering the blindness of the original stance, I’m going with the former response.

  8. Asterix the Gaul isn’t even the best Asterix book but it’s better than Lolita or Ulysses apparently.

    Never mind Damien G what are Rupert the Bear obsessives going to make of this Francocentricism

  9. Yes, and all of them beaten by Hergé, and it’s not even Tintin. (To be fair, I’ve never read any Tintin or Hergé – and I barely remember Asterix (so he can’t, therefore, be that memorable)).

    Ah, Damien G has another article on The Guardian, I see. I wonder what it can be about?!

  10. The Blue Lotus is a Tintin story set in 30’s China.

    As a Tintin obsessive when younger I naturally applaud its inclusion here but even though it has a surprisingly political punch to it I can’t help but laugh at another silly list. Obviously NickHornbyfever is not confined to the UK.

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