The Guardian has a couple of features on rereading novels – a piece discussing it here, and some contemporary authors’ favourite novels to re-read here. This isn’t something I do very often with novels. I did when younger but now I don’t read novels enough as it is, and though I’ve tried to read more the last couple of years (I kept a log last year here and here), there is always so much more to read. In 1995 I had a summer in France, in Chamonix, and took with me several cheap classics thinking that it wouldn’t matter if I couldn’t get them all home at the end. In that time, read a load of things I’d never read in full before – Don Quixote, War and Peace, all the Sherlock Holmes books, Candide, Vanity Fair, lots of Dickens, most of Dostoyevsky, Wilkie Collins… Looking back I guess that meant I read some things in bad translations, and surprisingly I didn’t read much by French novelists – I’ve still read little or nothing of Stendhal, Balzac, Zola, or Proust. I have read most or much of Camus, Gide, Sartre and Genet though. It was that summer I also worked through a pile of Heidegger texts and drafted a long paper that was the basis for the chapters on him in Mapping the Present.
I’ve been trying to think of novels I have revisited in recent years, and the two that came to mind are Moby Dick and The Name of the Rose. The latter I’ve read probably four times; Foucault’s Pendulum twice; but Eco’s others only once each, and The Prague Cemetery is still on the ‘to read’ pile (it’s a hardback, so it never ends up in luggage on trips). Many of the contemporary authors I like – Rushdie, Pynchon, Fowles, Sebald, Faulks – I’ve read most or much of, but usually only once each. Just recently – partly as a result of the Kindle app on the iPad – I’ve reread Heart of Darkness and Frankenstein. Academic books are another matter – I’ve read books like Being and Time, Discipline and Punish, and The Production of Space multiple times. Literary works I’ve written about – Antigone, Beowulf, and plays by Shakespeare – I’ve read several times, though I only read Gargantua and Pantagruel the once (the emphasis was squarely on Lefebvre’s reading, not mine).
So what am I missing? What books should I reread or should I have read?
Milan Kundera & Haruki Murakami
JG Ballard’s books?
If you haven’t jumped on Proust or Flaubert, I suggest you do so immediately.
Right now I’m reading a novel by Ahdaf Soueif (friend of Edward Said) called The Map of Love. Very enjoyable and interesting love story of sorts.
Also, maybe Piers Plowman, if you’re interested in medieval literature.
Tim Ingolds A brief history of Lines
Bolano. His writings stand alone as fiction. But the first part of 2666 also has a great portrayal of academica. I also reckon his work could form the basis of some interesting studies on space, geographies of power etc.
For Fun: Pratchett. The Discworld Novels are fabulous! Something meaningful would be something like Michel Houellebecq (The Elementary Praticles) or Guy Debord (The Society of the Spectacle). Also Raoul Vaneigem had ‘recently’ written a great book with the very long title “Entre le deuil du monde et la joie de vivre : Les situationnistes et la mutation des comportements”, which is really interessting. But I would give Pratchett a chance 😉
The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes. I saw you had read Flaubert’s Parrot in a previous listing so I thought this would be of interest.
If you haven’t already I suggest reading ‘Doctor Criminale’ by Malcolm Bradbury. For all its faults, it is an entertaining story about a late 20th century European philosopher who is not what he seems, with some humorous asides about deconstruction.
For something rather different from the other books you have listed you could consider reading William Gibson’s “Zero History”, a compelling entanglement of fashion, corporate espionage and technology. He writes well and offers some canny observations about early 21st century life…
I’d say Cormac McCarthy ‘Sutree’ and his ‘Border Trilogy’. Also Andrey Kurkov, particularly his ‘Penguin’ novels, but also ‘The President’s Last Love’, ‘The Good Angel of Death’, and ‘The Milkman in the Night’…
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