It has been a fantastic year in terms of chipping away at some of the classics that should have been consumed when I was younger. For the sake of making the process easier I will go through it briefly on a country basis and my love for Russian literature should become apparent.
This was the year of Fydor Dostoyevsky, Ivan Goncharov and Gogol with highlights including Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, The Brothers Kasmarov and Oblomov as well as Dead Souls and Taras Bulba. The general theme of Russian literature is tragedy so you get the father killing his son is Taras Bulba a Russian aristocrat Oblomov marrying beneath him and losing potentially the love of his life because he cannot make the effort and of course the story of brothers who hate their father and a student putting a hatchet into a money lenders head in Crime and Punishment. Great books that really make you think about your own views and behaviour and because of tragic twists leave you wondering where the story will end tight up until sadly it does.
Proust dominated the reading with Remembrance of Things Past a book that started with such deep description it was almost suffocating but ended with a paranoid writer obsessed with homosexuality and the sexual encounters of his former lover, who dies after falling off a horse. Apart from that the short but disturbing tale of teenage love and intrigue in Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan and Jean Paul Satre’s Nausea proved that the French are capable of being passionate about love as well as obsessively introverted about their own thoughts. The other main French writer was Albert Camus who provides a classic in the shape of The Outsider that deserves to be read by more than just US presidents on their holiday reading.
Tales of economic hardship in the form of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle and John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath showed how important the depression and the expansion of private enterprise had been on novelists but there were also books like To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee that were capable of leaving you in tears. Other highlights included The Old Man and the Sea and For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway as well as In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, which showed how powerful the combination of journalism and literature can be.
One of my standout reads was The White Guard by Mikhail Bulagov who also amazed with The Master and Margarita. A combination of war story, adolescence and growing up the story. A special mention for the penultimate chapter in Ulysses by James Joyce not only because that was one of the few chapters that was readable without use of web based study guides but because it was also the most moving between the two main characters Bloom and Stephen.
More, much more, to come in 2007.