TOP 10 SUGGESTIONS: WORLD CLASSICS

For the 2016 Classics Challenge, the definition of what constitutes a classic is up to you. However, here are 10 suggestions to get your reading going. For this list, the first of three, we looked at non-English books from all periods, which have achieved “classic” status due to them standing the test of time and crossing the borders of their native country and language.

 

One of the most translated books in the world, and voted the best French book of the twentieth century, it continues to charm children and adults alike all over the world, and not without a reason… If you haven’t read it as a child, go and buy it now – it is never too late to be children again… P.S. Better enjoyed without the movie!

 

A story within a story, and more stories in the story within the story. One of Michael Ende’s best known works, The Neverending Story is a great fantasy classic which will bring you – quite literally, in the book – to the land and the borders of the land of imagination. Make sure you get a copy with the green and red text!

 

Imagine for a second Marco Polo and Emperor Kubla Khan sitting in a garden, one telling stories and the other listening. Marco Polo tells, in poetic prose, 55 stories, one for each incredible and surreal city he has passed through, divided into eleven categories: Cities and Memory, Thin Cities, Cities and the Dead, Cities and the Sky, Continuous Cities, and so on. A masterpiece in Italian literature.

 

If you haven’t read this milestone of a novel in existentialism, there wasn’t a better time than now, with the new, critically acclaimed translation by Oliver Ready. When Rodion Raskolnikov, a poor student in Saint Petersburg, kills a pawnbroker and her sister when he becomes desperate for money. The rest of the novel is a internal moral debate about that terrible act and the human condition in extreme situations. A great novel by perhaps the greatest Russian novelist of all times.

 

“When Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from troubled dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a monstrous insect.” This is how begins Kafka’s bizarre magnum opus, that could have single-handedly result in the coining of the term Kafkaesque. 

 

“Mother died today,” one of the most famous opening lines in world literature, by the seminal existentialist character, Meursault. Although subject to recent controversy in English, that line lets you know exactly what sort of book you’re going to read. Camus’ level of existentialism is matched by only a few writers (some of them on these lists), if any. While it’s not a cheerful one, it’s unlikely that you’ll read the last page without having learned something new about yourself.

 

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Keeping up with my streak of great opening lines, Tolstoy’s is probably the most quoted. Along with War and PeaceAnna Karenina serves as Tolstoy’s masterpiece in his vision of Russia. He stood equal to his ambition and in this epic he intertwines the lives of people through decades in the backdrop of Russian history in the making, without losing the intimate details of those characters.

 

The novel that brought Murakami national and later international fame, and put him on the map as one of the seminal contemporary authors, Norwegian Wood takes its title from the Beatles song. The narrator, Toru Watanabe, revisits his college years, during which he had a complicated, to say the least, relationship with his best friend’s girlfriend, after he committed suicide. It deviates from Murakami’s usual style, and lacks his classic tropes like talking cats and magical realism, but it’s his intimate and honest homage to the bildungsroman genre.

 

Set in a dreamy Lisbon that a dreamy Bernardo Soares observes, this is considered to be one of the masterpieces of Portuguese literature. It was published posthumously, and seems to be fragmentary and incomplete, and reflects for this reason with great honesty the hundreds of facets of the author, of man, of reality.

 

The character of Alexis Zorbas is one of the most memorable not only in literature, but also in cinema as portrayed by Anthony Quinn. He is whimsical and charismatic, guiding the narrator into peculiar small adventures, while always entertaining with his witty soliloquies. An absolute must-read in any classics list, Zorba is perhaps the masterpiece of the greatest Greek novelist of the 20th century.

BooksElisa Sabbadin