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