Alfred Hitchcock s 1958 film

Greatest 20th century novels

The Age of Innocence, 1993 filmWill they, won’t they? Michelle Pfeiffer and Daniel Day-Lewis in the 1993 film of The Age of Innocence. Photograph: Allstar/Cinetext/Columbia

Compiling a list of the 100 classic reads of the 20th century to digest is an arbitrary task. As it is more rewarding to parody books with which people are familiar, my own selection has been conservative, reflecting the consensual view of the western literary canon rather than trying to reshape it.

I limited every author to a single book and each decade to 10 books. Inevitably there will have been omissions. Here I edited the list still further. But surely no one would quibble with Swann's Way, The Age of Innocence, Brave New World, Lolita and Midnight's Children, would they? Would they?

Lolita, 1962 filmSwann's Way
Marcel Proust (1913)

For a long time, I went to bed early. For a very short time, I fooled people into believing I wrote in short sentences, yet then as I hovered in that indeterminate space between sleeping and waking, as after metempsychosis thoughts of an earlier existence are unintelligible, the memory of my bedroom in Combray came flooding back, which is more than the servants did, whose absence seemed to emanate from a Merovingian past, leaving me to wonder whether Mama would come to kiss me goodnight before M Swann, whose prolonged absences with M de Charlus you might have chosen for yourself before embarking on this book, arrived for dinner, a dinner of madeleine cakes from which still clearer memories of my childhood, though refracted through a very adult voice, came racing back.

Combray is no location for a writer steeped in the semiotics of Bergotte, whose desire to recreate through a memory that informs our comprehension of ourselves and yet somehow obscures it, creating an epic, some say endless stream of consciousness that reminds me, as the fragment of the Vinteuil sonata I caught through the very window that some years later I was to overhear the violinist's daughter and her woman lover, while walking along the way by Swann to observe the church's steeple, of the devotion of Françoise to Aunt Léonie, whose frailty more than matched my own, for it was her very hypochondria, not that one would ordinarily stoop to such a term, for the illnesses in our memory were of the gravest nature, hastened her passing and at whose funeral I was shocked to notice that the Duchesse de Guermantes was not quite so radiant as I had first imagined, and yet less time had passed between the imagination and the memory than I had thought, though that may not be how it feels to you.

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Source: www.theguardian.com
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