The mandatory end-of-year post

In case you’re interested in pointless listmaking, the New York Times offers its 10 best books of 2008. Of them, I’ve read only Netherland, a novel I felt ambiguous about and still haven’t reread. Roberto Bolaño is on the list for 2666 and is highly praised by many good critics, but I didn’t like The Savage Detectives. The nonfiction side looks more worthwhile, especially given the books that delve into the unconstitutional, anti-democratic, and cruel things the United States is doing to people, but those things are already fairly well-known and the books seem more destined to be cited than read.

Last year, I expressed skepticism at the top 10 and 100 lists at the New York Times, and this year I’ll reiterate that (although I’ve read fewer books on the list this time). This year, I’ll link to a post from January 2008 that in turn linked to a number of my favorite (and much recommended) books. To that list I’ll add The Name of the Rose and The Time Paradox.

No novels published this year enraptured me; if you think I missed one that should, send an e-mail. Finally, if you’re going to read novels based on lists, you might try Modern Library’s Top 100 instead, although it has some clunkers (Appointment in Samarra at 22? Someone(s) must be sentimental for his (their?) youth).

Orhan Pamuk interview

Orahn Pamuk gives a fantastic interview at the Brooklyn Rail. A sample:

The novel, beginning in the 18th century, began to take over all the previous literary forms. In fact, we can even say it was the early form of globalization. The world, in so many ways, is so culturally globalized that our ways of seeing it are very similar to the post-Renaissance, let’s say from the invention of perspective in Italian and Dutch painting to the invention of photography and thereafter; we still see the world in a similar manner. We are likewise all globalized in our literary imagination, in the forms that we use, and I would say the literary globalization of the world had been completed years ago, when nobody was talking about globalization.

This resonates with Milan Kundera’s The Curtain, a book that deals much with the inherent internationalism in literature. I’m especially prone to such arguments because I’ve been reading so much in translation lately: a post on The Name of the Rose is due tomorrow, I finished Pamuk’s My Name is Red not long ago, right after that I finished Madame Bovary, The Curtain itself was originally written in French by a Czech author, and I’ve even finished books I didn’t especially like translated from Spanish: The Bad Girl and The Savage Detectives. And I began Doctor Faustus a few days ago, though I fear I will have to put it aside for a time so I can work on an academic project. Nonetheless, given the above, what Pamuk says about the globalization of literature is well-taken.

(Link stolen, as usual, from TEV.)

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