The OF Blog: Le Monde's 100 Books of the Century

Monday, September 05, 2011

Le Monde's 100 Books of the Century

This list was published back in the late 1990s, but it still is a markedly different list than what Anglo-American publications produced around the same time.  Bold for the titles read (whether in the original or in translation), italics for the ones owned but not yet read, and plain for unread works.

1.              The Stranger    Albert Camus     
2.              Remembrance of Things Past     Marcel Proust           
3.              The Trial    Franz Kafka  
4.              The Little Prince    Antoine de Saint-Exupéry   
5.              Man's Fate           André Malraux         
6.              Journey to the End of the Night            Louis-Ferdinand Céline       
7.              The Grapes of Wrath      John Steinbeck
8.              For Whom the Bell Tolls             Ernest Hemingway  
9.              Le Grand Meaulnes         Alain-Fournier          
10.          Froth on the Daydream    Boris Vian      
11.          The Second Sex     Simone de Beauvoir
12.          Waiting for Godot            Samuel Beckett         
13.          Being and Nothingness     Jean-Paul Sartre       
14.          The Name of the Rose    Umberto Eco
15.          The Gulag Archipelago   Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn       
16.          Paroles     Jacques Prévert        
17.          Alcools      Guillaume Apollinaire          
18.          The Blue Lotus    Hergé
19.          The Diary of a Young Girl           Anne Frank   
20.          Tristes Tropiques            Claude Lévi-Strauss
21.          Brave New World            Aldous Huxley          
22.          Nineteen Eighty-Four     George Orwell           
23.          Asterix the Gaul      René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo
24.          The Bald Soprano           Eugène Ionesco        
25.          Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality         Sigmund Freud        
26.          The Abyss/Zeno of Bruges         Marguerite Yourcenar         
27.          Lolita         Vladimir Nabokov    
28.          Ulysses     James Joyce   
29.          The Tartar Steppe          Dino Buzzati  
30.          The Counterfeiters         André Gide    
31.          The Horseman on the Roof        Jean Giono     
32.          Belle du Seigneur            Albert Cohen            
33.          One Hundred Years of Solitude            Gabriel García Márquez       
34.          The Sound and the Fury            William Faulkner      
35.          Thérèse Desqueyroux    François Mauriac      
36.          Zazie in the Metro           Raymond Queneau  
37.          Confusion of Feelings     Stefan Zweig
38.          Gone with the Wind        Margaret Mitchell    
39.          Lady Chatterley's Lover             D. H. Lawrence          
40.          The Magic Mountain       Thomas Mann          
41.          Bonjour Tristesse            Françoise Sagan       
42.          Le Silence de la mer        Vercors          
43.          Life: A User's Manual      Georges Perec           
44.          The Hound of the Baskervilles      Arthur Conan Doyle
45.          Under the Sun of Satan Georges Bernanos    
46.          The Great Gatsby            F. Scott Fitzgerald     
47.          The Joke   Milan Kundera         
48.          A Ghost at Noon/Contempt        Alberto Moravia       
49.          The Murder of Roger Ackroyd   Agatha Christie         
50.          Nadja        André Breton            
51.          Aurelien   Louis Aragon
52.          The Satin Slipper            Paul Claudel
53.          Six Characters in Search of an Author Luigi Pirandello        
54.          The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui             Bertolt Brecht           
55.          Friday       Michel Tournier       
56.          The War of the Worlds    H. G. Wells
57.          If This Is a Man/Survival in Auschwitz             Primo Levi     
58.          The Lord of the Rings     J. R. R. Tolkien           
59.          Les Vrilles de la vigne (French)      Colette      
60.          Capital of Pain     Paul Éluard   
61.          Martin Eden        Jack London  
62.          Ballad of the Salt Sea      Hugo Pratt    
63.          Writing Degree Zero       Roland Barthes         
64.          The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum     Heinrich Böll
65.          The Opposing Shore       Julien Gracq  
66.          The Order of Things       Michel Foucault        
67.          On the Road         Jack Kerouac
68.          The Wonderful Adventures of Nils       Selma Lagerlöf          
69.          A Room of One's Own     Virginia Woolf           
70.          The Martian Chronicles    Ray Bradbury           
71.          The Ravishing of Lol Stein          Marguerite Duras    
72.          The Interrogation           J. M. G. Le Clézio        
73.          Tropisms     Nathalie Sarraute     
74.          Journal, 1887–1910       Jules Renard
75.          Lord Jim   Joseph Conrad          
76.          Écrits        Jacques Lacan           
77.          The Theatre and its Double       Antonin Artaud        
78.          Manhattan Transfer       John Dos Passos       
79.          Ficciones   Jorge Luis Borges     
80.          Moravagine          Blaise Cendrars        
81.          The General of the Dead Army      Ismail Kadare           
82.          Sophie's Choice   William Styron          
83.          Gypsy Ballads      Federico García Lorca          
84.          The Strange Case of Peter the Lett       Georges Simenon     
85.          Our Lady of the Flowers             Jean Genet    
86.          The Man Without Qualities        Robert Musil
87.          Furor and Mystery          René Char     
88.          The Catcher in the Rye    J. D. Salinger  
89.          No Orchids For Miss Blandish    James Hadley Chase            
90.          Blake and Mortimer        Edgar P. Jacobs         
91.          The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge           Rainer Maria Rilke   
92.          Second Thoughts            Michel Butor
93.          The Burden of Our Time/The Origins of Totalitarianism      Hannah Arendt        
94.          The Master and Margarita         Mikhail Bulgakov      
95.          The Rosy Crucifixion       Henry Miller
96.          The Big Sleep       Raymond Chandler  
97.          Amers       Saint-John Perse      
98.          Gaston/Gomer Goof      André Franquin       
99.          Under the Volcano          Malcolm Lowry         
100.    Midnight's Children    Salman Rushdie 

OK, read just over a third of these.  How many have you read/own?  Which ones of the non-highlighted titles would you recommend to me and/or others and why? 


rahkan said...

I really liked Sarraute's Tropisms. It was a very interesting reading experience. Probably too strange to have been readable (for me) at a longer length, but with about 20 thousand word stories, it was perfect.

Also really enjoyed Celine's Journey To The End Of The Night. The style of dialogue is interesting in itself, with its long speeches and frequent ellipses. And the adventures were very entertaining (and very black, in outlook), particularly the parts in the United States.

James said...

Have read:

The Great Gatsby
The War of the Worlds

Both were part of the curriculum my English teacher threw together at random. Unlike my fellow students, I enjoyed The Great Gatsby and it is the only one from my high school years that I look upon favorably. I vaguely remember being forced to read The War of the Worlds during my senior year, but have no idea if I enjoyed it or not.


Nineteen Eighty-Four
The Lord of the Rings

My lousy English teacher, whose assignments were random and largely consisted of playing his favorite music and having us write about in our journals, decided to tell us how Nineteen Eighty-Four ended instead of assigning it to us. This, combined with my distaste for dystopian fiction, has stripped me of any desire to read it. However, I did buy a copy a few years ago... just in case.

I attempted to read The Lord of the Rings and only managed to get a little over a hundred pages in. A boring slog with pin-pricks of torture in the form of songs. I may own a copy, but I doubt I will pick it up again.


As with most of the lists posted, my totals are dismal. You get used to it after a while.

Matthew Cheney said...

What a fun list!

I've not read all of Tristes Tropiques, but dip into it now and then and always find it fascinating and stimulating, with a richness of prose and vision that's astounding. Life: A User's Manual is definitely worth checking out, and virtually impossible to describe. Six Characters is the most famous Pirandello play and so influential that one is tempted to exclaim as an apocryphal student once did of Hamlet: "It's nothing but cliches!" I like some of Pirandello more because it's less familiar (e.g. Henry IV), but it's definitely on a very small list of the most important plays of the 20th century. (Unlike the Brecht. Arturo Ui?! Over Threepenny Opera, Mother Courage, and The Caucasian Chalk Circle?! Insanity!) Breton's Nadja is a head trip and absolutely essential surrealism; also very short, which I like. I love Barthes, but Writing Degree Zero seems a strange choice (Barthes by Barthes or Lover's Discourse would be mine). Renard's Journal is magnificent, just beautiful selections from the everyday life of a writer -- it's a book I once assigned a writing class, in fact, and they liked it. The Theatre & Its Double is some of the craziest theorizing you could ever read, and yet, despite its craziness, it almost convinces me it is sane. Rilke's Notebooks is sort of the prototypical poet's novel, well worth seeking out. And Under the Volcano is logorrheic, drunken stream-of-consciousness -- I read it while staying in Cuernavaca, Mexico, which is where it's set, and had to stop because it was blowing my mind too much; finished it a year or so later, which didn't seem to affect the novel's sense in the least, but made it much more bearable.

Ashamed to admit, though will for the sake of truth and justice, that I've never read The Little Prince. Among others...

Liviu said...

This superb list is much more representative imho than the usual Anglo stuff but I grew up on French literature so I am biased...

I read 37 of the books there, mostly novels, have and started some 3 or 4 - most notably Belle de Seigneur and The Interrogation, while I am unsure of one or two since the English titles are unfamiliar but I read a lot of say Boris Vian in French or Romanian

The Opposing Shore and Master and Margarita are among my all time favorite novels and I have no qualms about The Stranger heading the list since it is a masterpiece

Hélène said...

What a hodgepodge of a list!
Ballad of the Salt Sea, Blake and Mortimer, Asterix, Lotus bleu, Gaston : these are comics, all good, some on the fun side (Astérix, Gaston), some on the poetic side (Ballad :+++)
I couldn't bear Journey to the end of the night nor The man without qualities but that's idiosyncratic. Kundera considers Musil is one of the greatest novelists of all time. So feel free to read them! :)
Remembrance of things past is a great journey : you need time and a quiet mind to dive into such a work.
Tristes tropiques is a favorite. Levi Strauss wrote about his travels in Amazonia and the book begins by "I hate travelling". It's a great achievement as an anthropologist and as a writer.

Roland said...

I have read 10 on that list.
Weird that they have some comics on the list; Asterix and Tintin (Blue Lotus).
Is Camus' Stranger that good?

Nick said...

I've read eighteen of those listed, five of which I often cite in my "Top 10" works I consider the most important I've read:

1. The Stranger Albert Camus
21. Brave New World Aldous Huxley
28. Ulysses James Joyce
33. One Hundred Years of Solitude Gabriel García Márquez
94. The Master and Margarita Mikhail Bulgakov

I prefer Kafka's The Castle (part of my aforementioned "Top 10"), having found The Trial quite a chore in comparison. So while I appreciate the inclusion of Kafka on the list I debate the choice of work.

My recommendation from the list is Six Characters in Search of an Author by Luigi Pirandello. I was introduced to it by my great aunt who had seen it performed on stage in New York back when she was a teenager. I found her description of it (as simply Pirandello, from which she would recite scenes as she remembered them) fascinating when I was younger.

Mimouille said...

- If you intend to read Remembrance of Things Past, you should do it with much attention. To a certain extent, it deserves to be studied and analyzed and not only read. The concept of the "Madeleine de Proust" is always with me
- Journey to the End of the Night by Celine is one of my favorite books of all time, such an in depth view of human frailty and misery
- Froth on the Daydream is great if you are into surrealist literature...could not read it as a teen, but it was much better later
- In my opinion, The Counterfeiters by Gide can easily be overlooked...he depicts totally unrealistic characters to fit his troublesome fantasies (older men and young adolescents)
- The Horseman on the Roof is a great read, very comparable in my opinion to Camus' Plague
- Belle du Seigneur is two books in one, a social criticism (which I loved) and a love story (extremely annoying) but which should still be read to discover a magnificent author (Mangeclous is maybe a better place to start)
- Les Vrilles de la vigne by Colette is fine if you like extensive descriptions of the beauty of nature...
- Ballad of the Salt Sea is actually the first in a series of magnificent graphic novels from Hugo Pratt, which must absolutely be read (I love the drawings)
- Confusion of Feelings from Zweig I couldn't get into (I tried it young). I much preferred the Chess Player or Beware of Pity (a masterpiece)

Gabriele C. said...

OK, now we need a Russian and a German list, too, and I may get most of the books I read covered. :)

And this time I beat Larry. ;) I've read about 70% of books on the list.

Anonymous said...

Hm... I've read 23 (that doesn't include two I started but couldn't be bothered to finish).
'Gulag Archipelago' should be on your tbr pile.
Asterix... not 'A. the Gaul', the magic duo hadn't quite got into their stride in that the first in the series, 'Asterix in Britain' is much funnier, giving the French take on traditional English eccentricities.
'The Big Sleep' - literature it ain't, enjoyable it is.

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