Some Nearly Forgotten Novels Written in the First Decade of the 1900s which are Exceptionally Good

In England it was known as the Edwardian Era.  In France it was the La Belle Époque (“Beautiful Era”).  In the United States it was the Progressive Era.  It was a time of optimism and peace and prosperity before the terrible Great War spoiled everything.  Here are some wonderful novels written during that time.

Claudine_ecole_colette‘Claudine at School’ by Colette (1900) –This was the first novel by French writer Colette, and as with so much of her work it caused a huge scandal with 15 year-old Claudine taking on affairs with her female instructors.   It was not published in English until 1957.

10725_poster‘The Confusions of Young Torless’ by Robert Musil (1906) – Another scandalous novel, this is the first novel by German writer Robert Musil based on his own experiences at a military boarding school.  Boys left to themselves get into all kinds of troubles.

9780195108118‘Esau and Jacob’ by Joachim Maria Machado de Assis (1904) – This is one of many excellent novels by the great Brazilian writer, Machado de Assis.  I’ve read most of them, because I consider Machado de Assis with his sense of humor one of the all-time great novelists.  This one is the story of Brazil itself disguised as a story of twin brothers falling in love with the same woman, Flora.

9780679406679_p0_v1_s118x184‘The House of Mirth’ by Edith Wharton (1905) – This early novel about New York society beauty Lily Bart put Edith Wharton on the literary map and could well be her best.

“She had no tolerance for scenes which were not of her own making.”

9781590171158‘The Late Mattia Pascal’ by Luigi Pirandello (1904) – Here is a comic novel of black humor by Italian writer Luigi Pirandello in which a man goes on a successful gambling outing only to return home to discover that his wife and family have declared him dead.  Thus the man is free to assume another identity, which he does with unexpected consequences.

sister-carrie‘Sister Carrie’ by Theodore Dreiser’ (1900) – Here is the realistic and unsentimental fictional account of the rise of actress Caroline Meeber, Sister Carrie, by United States writer Theodore Dreiser.  As a novelist Dreiser was crude and powerful, and I consider him one of the greats.

“How true it is that words are but the vague shadows of the volumes we mean. Little audible links, they are, chaining together great inaudible feelings and purposes.”

1649385._UY200_‘A Room with a View’ by E. M. Forster (1908) – This English novel has been described as an Edwardian rom-com, a ‘Love Actually’ for its time.   Perhaps that is why it was made into a successful movie.

“When I think of what life is, and how seldom love is answered by love; it is one of the moments for which the world was made.”

34712190‘Buddenbrooks’ by Thomas Mann (1901) – Although I thought ‘The Magic Mountain’ and ‘Death in Venice’ were wonderful, I still consider ‘Buddenbrooks’ as Thomas Mann’s masterpiece.  It is the story of a successful German family’s decline over the generations.

 

Advertisements

21 responses to this post.

  1. Terrific post, some new (to me) names and some great reminders!

    Like

    Reply

  2. A great selection. I loved The House of Mirth, and it’s nice to see a Colette on your list, too – she seems to have been unjustly neglected in recent times. I have a Machado de Assis on the shelves at home – Dom Casmurro. Have you read that one?

    Like

    Reply

    • Hi Jacqui,
      Yes I’ve read it, ‘Dom Casmurro’ is one of Machado de Assis’ finest. Perhaps his most famous work is ‘Epitaph of a Small Winner’. If ever there was a writer far, far ahead of his time it is Machado de Assis. 🙂

      Like

      Reply

  3. Posted by kaggsysbookishramblings on September 13, 2015 at 1:33 PM

    Interesting post, and some books new to me. Machado de Assis is excellent but I haven’t read this one – will look out for it!

    Like

    Reply

    • Hi kaggsy,
      Machado de Assis is one of those writers whose work so impressed me that I searched out all the lesser known novels he wrote. Usually when I do that there is an inevitable decline in the quality of the works, but this did not happen with Machado de Assis. His works are all incredibly good. I discovered him in the early 1990s, and after that I devoured South American fiction for about five years. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

  4. I have to read Buddenbrooks…

    Like

    Reply

  5. Great list! I just got a book by Colette and am eager to give it a try!

    Like

    Reply

    • Hi Melissa,
      Colette novels are always short little things that are light and fun to read. Some of my other favorites are ‘Mitsou’, ‘The Vagabond’, and ‘Music Hall Highlights’. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

  6. I’ve only read A Room With a View and I should read the other ones.

    I’ll add to your list: L’immoraliste by Gide, Aline by Ramuz, The Road by Jack London and Le mystère de la chambre jaune by Gaston Leroux.

    Like

    Reply

    • Hi Emma,
      Of the four you mention, I have not read any. I have considered reading ‘The Immoralist’ but so far haven’t. I’ve read ‘The Call of the Wild’ but not any other Jack London. Two of the authors you mention, Ramuz and Gaston Leroux, I haven’t heard of at all. 🙂

      Like

      Reply

      • The Immoralist was a scandal at the time.

        I’ve read and reviewed The Road, it’s fantastic.

        Ramuz is set in the Swiss country. (review on my blog too) I’m not sure this one is available in English, though.

        And La chambre jaune is a must read, like Conan Doyle or Agatha Christie.

        Like

        Reply

  7. […] wir zeitlich zunächst ein wenig zurück: Tony’s Book World stellt eine Liste interessanter Bücher zusammen, die im ersten Jahrzehnt des letzten Jahrhunderts […]

    Like

    Reply

  8. Three of my favorite books are on your list (Forster, Wharton, and Dreiser) but it also has two books that I really didn’t like. I found Torless disturbing in a way that I didn’t enjoy and the Claudine books I found interesting at first but ultimately tedious.

    Like

    Reply

    • Hi Thomas,
      Robert Musil is one of my absolute favorites. I’ve read his masterpiece, ‘The Man Without Qualities’ and ‘Five Women’, and ‘Young Torless’. I found them all excellent, so I don’t agree with you on Musil. Some claim that Musil foresaw the Nazis in ‘Young Torless’.
      I don’t hold Colette in such high esteem, but it is refreshing to have a woman who didn’t mind being a sensualist and somewhat disreputable writing novels.
      Disagreements about novels are a good thing.

      Like

      Reply

  9. A Room With a View one of my favourite books (and I press it on as many people as I can).

    Like

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: