Reviving the dead in literature


I have to confess that we read the Telegraph at the weekend, primarily for the crossword, a Saturday morning treat, Helen Yemm‘s gardening column and, of course, to get a perspective on what the old colonels are thinking this week. We even visited Helen Yemm’s garden when she had an open day a few weeks ago. However, on a more literary note, John Sutherland, who is always worth reading, had an interesting column on the revival of John Williams’ Stoner this week. (The Literary Saloon also commented on it.) This is a book that has been sitting on my shelves for more years than I care to remember and which I will get round to reading one day… Sutherland goes on to give a list of five other books which he thinks should be brought up from the cellar. This is a topic I am always interested in. I have a large page devoted to neglected books, both my own suggestions and those of many others.

However, I shall start with Sutherland’s suggestions:

Not À la recherche du temps perdu
Not À la recherche du temps perdu

Irène Némirovsky: Jezebel
I have yet to read Némirovsky but she is very high on my list and I expect to read some of her novels, including Jezebel, soon. I would not have thought that she is in the cellar, though Jezebel may be less well-known than some of her others.
Charles Willeford: Cockfighter
I tend not to read crime novels so have not read any Willeford. This is not one of his crime novels but cockfighting appeals to me even less than crime so I will pass on this one.
George Du Maurier: Peter Ibbetson
Comparing Peter Ibbetson to Proust, as Sutherland does, is a bit like comparing JK Rowling to Roberto Bolaño. Du Maurier, as well as being famous for being the grandfather of Daphne, is best-known for his novel Trilby, which I have not read but I have seen the film which focuses more on the character of Svengali than on Trilby and features the wonderful John Barrymore.
Fernando Pessoa: Livro do desassossego (The Book of Disquiet; The Book of Disquietude)
Read it. Loved it. But in the cellar? I don’t think so.
Nuruddin Farah: Sardines
Another author on my list, whose books have been on my shelf for too many years. But is he unknown?

In short, not a very impressive list. Are my selections any better? You judge.

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