Wednesday, December 09, 2015

The best British novel of all time: have international critics found it?

The world has spoken, and the greatest British novel of all time is Middlemarch, though hot on its heels are two novels by Virginia Woolf, who ties with Charles Dickens in having the most entries among the top 100 British novels as seen by the rest of the world.

The list was put together for BBC Culture by Jane Ciabattari, who polled 81 book critics from all around the world, excluding the UK. Each was asked to come up with a list of 10 British novels, naming one as the greatest. The result is a top five in which George Eliot’s masterpiece is followed by Woolf’s To the Lighthouse and Mrs Dalloway, with Dickens’s Great Expectations and Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre completing the line-up. Two more Dickens titles feature in the top 10: Bleak House (sixth), and David Copperfield (eighth). Woolf’s The Waves takes 16th place, and Orlando 65th.

Eclectic and intriguing, the list ranges from the modern (Hanif Kureishi’s The Buddha of Suburbia, and Ali Smith’s There but for the) to the Nobel prize-winning (William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, VS Naipaul’s A House for Mr Biswas), from the comic brilliance of PG Wodehouse (The Code of the Woosters, in 100th place) to children’s classics such as The Chronicles of Narnia and Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. Zadie Smith is there, twice; so are Jeanette Winterson and Alan Hollinghurst. Full story...

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