50 books to read before you...Favourite Classic books

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Freddie
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50 books to read before you...Favourite Classic books

Postby Freddie » 17 Aug 2019, 7:44pm

I suppose 'Classic' probably translates as largely pre-WWII. I have been reading one of those e-book '50 things to read before you snuff it' type collections. Books I have enjoyed from this include:

Arthur Conan Doyle - Sherlock Holmes (read most of them now, really gripping reads)
Oscar Wilde - The Picture of Dorian Gray
Johnathon Swift - Gulliver's Travels (the English is rather difficult, but it is an interesting read once you get past that. I found the 'horse country' a bit silly, but I imagine it was much more impressive back when it was published)
Fyodor Dostoyevsky - Brothers Karazamov (A little slow in parts, but with some outstanding bits, 'The Grand Inquisitor' in particular)
Robert Tressell - Ragged Trousered Philanthropists

I started to read Dante's Inferno but found it very hard going, as I wasn't sure I was correctly understanding the very old style of English used...anyone fare better? (tips?)

Currently reading Samuel Butler - 'The Way of All Flesh and enjoying it.

What classics would you add to this list as must reads before you expire and why?

Tom_B
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Re: 50 books to read before you...Favourite Classic books

Postby Tom_B » 17 Aug 2019, 8:05pm

You’re doing pretty well, Freddie! Re Dante - you might be better trying a modern translation, tho this will cost you unless you go to a library. A quick search online will give an idea of what is available.

From what you say, I think this collection has been put together to avoid copyright issues and hence minimise cost. This is fine for older works that were written to be readable (Doyle, Tressell, Swift even) but comes unstuck when it includes translations of epic poems - before the mid-20th century, there was a pervasive idea that these works had to be in archaic English in order to ‘do justice’ to the original, so C19 translations use the language of the C!7 and earlier.

This is not the present-day approach and I am sure you will be able to find a translation of Dante that reads more easily than the one in your collection.

Happy reading!

brynpoeth
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Re: 50 books to read before you...Favourite Classic books

Postby brynpoeth » 17 Aug 2019, 8:18pm

At a flea market I nearly bought a copy of Ulysses by James Joyce, anyone read that?

The Grauniad has lists of ten books about..

W G Sebald is one of my favourites, good in English too, a couple of people tried to recommend him to me recently :)

Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann won him the Nobel Prize, not too hard to read in German, nice language, lots of humour
Started it a couple of years ago, never got round to reading the last 30 pages yet (not sure why) :wink:
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661-Pete
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Re: 50 books to read before you...Favourite Classic books

Postby 661-Pete » 17 Aug 2019, 8:18pm

I'm determined, some day, to get back to Moby Dick and read it right through to the end. Especially since this year is Melville's bicentenary. Every attempt at that book, so far, has ground to a halt somewhere around the "Midnight, Forecastle" scene, I never seemed to get any further. Of course some of the writing is rather tedious, but I should persevere. Rather a pity that I know how it ends... but then everyone does!

There are plenty of other books that I've left unfinished. I'm sorry to admit, I got three-quarters of the way through Les Misérables and then put it aside. Same with War and Peace. I seem to have a bad record with the great classics... :oops:
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Spinners
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Re: 50 books to read before you...Favourite Classic books

Postby Spinners » 17 Aug 2019, 8:23pm

I'm not a big reader of books TBH and read even less since by eyesight went downhill! Anyway, I don't do bucket lists but I do have a few books that I want to read including 'Catcher in the Rye' by JD Salinger and 'Ulysses' by James Joyce. I've actually bought the latter but it frightens me a bit. It's huge! After visiting the Bronte Parsonage Museum in Haworth I've also bought 'Jane Eyre' by Charlotte Bronte for Mrs. Spinners which I'll read the next time we have our annual holiday in Yorkshire.

I don't know if they are true classics but I've enjoyed and often re-read '1984' by George Orwell, 'Out of the Silent Planet' by CS Lewis and 'Kidnapped' by RL Stevenson plus the autobiographical trilogy of books by Laurie Lee. Oddly enough, four of these books were on the English curriculum in school so well done that person in the old West Glamorgan County Council Education Department!
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Freddie
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Re: 50 books to read before you...Favourite Classic books

Postby Freddie » 17 Aug 2019, 8:25pm

brynpoeth wrote:At a flea market I nearly bought a copy of Ulysses by James Joyce, anyone read that?
No, but it is on the list/in the compilation, so must be considered (at least by whoever compiled this thing) pretty good.

One thing that strikes you about these old works is how it is assumed people have a working knowledge of Latin, French, German and even Greek....eek! I notice they start teaching foreign languages at secondary school age now (11/12), much better, I think, to start at 6 or 7 with at least French and perhaps German. Then children might have a fighting chance at becoming a least conversant in one foreign language.
Tom_B wrote:From what you say, I think this collection has been put together to avoid copyright issues and hence minimise cost. This is fine for older works that were written to be readable (Doyle, Tressell, Swift even) but comes unstuck when it includes translations of epic poems - before the mid-20th century, there was a pervasive idea that these works had to be in archaic English in order to ‘do justice’ to the original, so C19 translations use the language of the C!7 and earlier.

This is not the present-day approach and I am sure you will be able to find a translation of Dante that reads more easily than the one in your collection.
I wonder where the sweet spot lies. Obviously I want to understand it, but at the same time if the language was too modern, it might take away from the quality/majesty of the thing...
Last edited by Freddie on 17 Aug 2019, 8:34pm, edited 1 time in total.

Freddie
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Re: 50 books to read before you...Favourite Classic books

Postby Freddie » 17 Aug 2019, 8:27pm

Spinners wrote:...I want to read including 'Catcher in the Rye' by JD Salinger...
I read this when I was a a bit older than the main character and liked it a lot, but it is about a teenager who is a bit 'above everything', so might not have the same effect now. Well worth reading though, I'd say. Relatively short too, so can be read quite easily.
Last edited by Freddie on 17 Aug 2019, 8:32pm, edited 1 time in total.

brynpoeth
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Re: 50 books to read before you...Favourite Classic books

Postby brynpoeth » 17 Aug 2019, 8:28pm

Is Moby Dick available as a Readers Digest Condensed Book? I should try that. So many books are too long, and there are so many classics, no-one could read them all, I think some of them are %@&&#!

I have visited several literature museums where authors were born, worked, lived, that is a good way to approach them

Any books in French, Pete?
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Spinners
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Re: 50 books to read before you...Favourite Classic books

Postby Spinners » 17 Aug 2019, 8:32pm

Freddie wrote:
brynpoeth wrote:At a flea market I nearly bought a copy of Ulysses by James Joyce, anyone read that?
No, but it is on the list/in the compilation, so must be considered (at least by whoever compiled this thing) pretty good.



Yes, I think 'Ulysses' is the 'Pet Sounds' of the great books list!!
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brynpoeth
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Re: 50 books to read before you...Favourite Classic books

Postby brynpoeth » 17 Aug 2019, 8:36pm

With Ulysses I should maybe start by reading the first few pages, or leave the book lying around and start in the middle
Literature students have pocket guides, doubtless many analyses of the novel

Dubliners by James Joyce is easy to read, I have read it, not sure if that would help :?
Other books by The Master are available too
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661-Pete
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Re: 50 books to read before you...Favourite Classic books

Postby 661-Pete » 17 Aug 2019, 9:08pm

brynpoeth wrote:Any books in French, Pete?
Certainly not Les Mis! That would be far too much of an ordeal! I have two different translations, which differ quite a lot in detail. I prefer the one which retains quite a lot of the original French expressions - they're easy enough to understand in context.

I've read some of the simpler stuff in French - Guy de Maupassant's short stories, for instance. Mrs P has one of the Maigret books in French. I don't know how far she got in it, but she said she had to keep reaching for the dictionary. I haven't even looked at that one - yet!
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Ben@Forest
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Re: 50 books to read before you...Favourite Classic books

Postby Ben@Forest » 18 Aug 2019, 7:49am

Pride and Prejudice - a puckish satire on early 19th C mores.

To Kill A Mockingbird - race, conventions and justice or injustice in pre-civil rights southern USA, seen through the eyes of a child.

brynpoeth
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Re: 50 books to read before you...Favourite Classic books

Postby brynpoeth » 18 Aug 2019, 8:04am

Dickens and Hardy are worth trying, but are they outdated now? Best to start with short stories, most authors wrote some, not just endless novels

George Mackay Brown is one of my favourites, wrote about Orkney
..
Those who can read English are lucky because so many books are translated from other languages into TWGL, worlds greatest language (irony) :wink:
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Ben@Forest
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Re: 50 books to read before you...Favourite Classic books

Postby Ben@Forest » 18 Aug 2019, 8:58am

brynpoeth wrote:Dickens and Hardy are worth trying, but are they outdated now?


By that rationale every contemporary novel is outdated the moment it's published. Why read the works of Graham Greene, George Orwell, Kingsley or Martin Amis, Nick Hornby, Zadie Smith....

I think reading a contemporaneous novel published in, let's say, 1993 can be harder than a 19th or early 20th century novel; because if you remember 1993 your memory of it may not be either reflected in the book or similar to the author's experience. When reading a novel by Hardy or Dickens the scene set is not familiar and easier to absorb or believe.

brynpoeth
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Re: 50 books to read before you...Favourite Classic books

Postby brynpoeth » 18 Aug 2019, 9:00am

There are some authors who were very successful but are now almost unknown
Cannae think of any names, mind
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