Literature: By the Numbers

BBC Culture asked writers around the globe to pick stories that have endured across generations and continents – and changed society. 
They asked 108 critics to pick their top five, and came up with a top ten and top 100 list - which ought to suggest that there was substantial diversity in the critics opinions.  The changed society component of this game means that literary merit is not the sole criterion, and indeed that is evident.  Of the top five, I had only read numbers four and five:
1. The Odyssey (Homer, 8th Century BC)
2. Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Harriet Beecher Stowe, 1852)
3. Frankenstein (Mary Shelley, 1818)
4. Nineteen Eighty-Four (George Orwell, 1949)
5. Things Fall Apart (Chinua Achebe, 1958)
Of these, I think only number one and perhaps number four count as among the greatest works of literature, but the influence on history of Stowe's book was immense. Six through ten are all truly great though:
6. One Thousand and One Nights (various authors, 8th-18th Centuries)
7. Don Quixote (Miguel de Cervantes, 1605-1615)
8. Hamlet (William Shakespeare, 1603)
9. One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel García Márquez, 1967)
10. The Iliad (Homer, 8th Century BC)
I am a really big fan of Harry Potter, but does he really deserve place #17 on a list that doesn't include Lord of the Rings?  Or where War and Peace only rates #26?

In any, this sort of list has lots of great suggestions for those of us whose literary experience is more limited.  I have read about a quarter of the titles, but I might be counting a couple where I've only seen the movies or play.

It did persuade me that I need to read One Hundred Years Of Solitude in English, though.  I have reads parts of it in Spanish, and that Spanish is wonderful, e.g.,  from the opening paragraph:

Muchos años después, frente al pelotón de fusilamiento, el coronel Aureliano Buendía había de recordar aquella tarde remota en que su padre lo llevó a conocer el hielo. Macondo era entonces una aldea de veinte casas de barro y cañabrava construidas a la orilla de un río de aguas diáfanas que se precipitaban por un lecho de piedras pulidas, blancas y enormes como huevos prehistóricos. El mundo era tan reciente, que muchas cosas carecían de nombre, y para mencionarlas había que señalarlas con el dedo. 
Márquez, Gabriel García. Cien años de soledad (Biblioteca Garcia Marquez) (Spanish Edition) (Kindle Locations 17-21). Random House Mondadori. Kindle Edition. 
Unfortunately, my Spanish is too limited for me to have ever gotten very far into it.


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