By chance, I recently came across a list of “100 Novels Everyone Should Read” compiled by the UK publication “The Telegraph. Putting together such lists and then arguing about them is mostly harmless fun.
Looking at the list, my first thought was “What have I missed?” and my second thought was “How did the Russian XIX century do?”
As for the first, I think I would get at least a C+ (having missed 98, 92, 90, 80, 79, 75, 74, 71, 69, 48, 46, 45, 44, 40 27, 26, 25, 20, 15, 7, 4–making it 21 out of 100) but I would then go and argue with the professor pointing our how English- and XX century—centric this whole list was. The professor would probably wear a tweed jacket and throw me out of his office.
The Russian XIX century didn’t do so well in being represented on the list. We only have “Eugene Onegin” at 88 (a scandal), “Crime and Punishment” at 66 (not even the best book of the author, at least as compared to “Brothers Karamazov), and “AnnaKarenina” at 3rd which is well deserved (though “Moby Dick at 2nd is not).
Let just note as an aside that Nabokov’s “Lolita” comes at 54. Its author would be very happy to edge out Dostoevsky whom he detested but he would have been quite embarrassed by being placed so far ahead of “Eugene Onegin” which he himself had placed alongside works of Homer and Shakespeare.
And speaking of Homer, let me close with astonishment that by far the best and the most influential novel (out of which most of the novels on list sprung) wasn’t even included. I mean, of course, “The Odyssey”. I will have more to say about the continuing relevancy of “The Odyssey” as confirmed by certain events that took place in a Lvov prison in early days of WW2.