Ten World Class Fiction Writers I Have Discovered Since I have been Blogging

 

I have been blogging for a little over nine years now, but I have been an avid reader of world fiction for over forty years. I had read most of the world’s great authors before I started blogging, so they are not included here. However I have discovered many new authors and some existing ones I hadn’t read before then. Some have been featured on other sites. Here are ten I consider the best of the new finds.

Note: I discovered Irene Nemirovsky and Hans Fallada just before I started blogging, so they are not included.

Here goes.

Elena Ferrante – Elena Ferrante has pretty much taken over the world. Her 4-volume Neapolitan Novels will stand as one of the landmarks of Italian literature, and I’ve also read some of her excellent previous work now too. I expect the Neapolitan Novels are quite autobiographical, but she definitely captures what it must have been like growing up in Naples, Italy.

Yan Lianke – I’m only two novels in to Yan Lianke’s work, but I can tell his work will last. I see him as the great political novelist of our time. His ‘The Four Books’ captures the dislocation and devastating results on the Chinese people of the Great Leap Forward started by Chairman Mao Zedong. Lianke is now in my ‘Must Read’ category.

Amor Towles – Amor Towles is the last thing you would expect from the United States today, a smart, stylish elegant charming writer. Both of his novels ‘Rules of Civility’ and ‘A Gentleman in Moscow’ are winners.

Georges Simenon – I never read Georges Simenon in the past because I thought he was a detective genre novelist. Then I discovered his romans durs, and now I am hooked. This French writer deals with the gritty side of life, tacky nasty people, and terrible acts. I find that Georges Simenon has more insight into the way men and women misbehave than just about any other writer.

Aminatta Forna – Forna’s Croatian novel ‘The Hired Man’ is written in the style of Kazuo Ishiguro’s ‘The Remains of the Day’ where the sins and conflicts of the past come back to subtly haunt the people of today. Forna’s newest novel ‘Happiness’ about urban foxes in modern-day London captures more than just what is happening on the surface and achieves a depth missing from many novels.

Sofi Oksanen – Finland and Estonia are pretty much twin countries, and Sofi Oksanen has roots in both of them. Both of the novels I have read of Oksanen’s, ‘When the Doves Disappeared’ and ‘Purge’, have taken place in Estonia. Both of these novels have characters and an intensity that makes them superior reads.

Luis Alberto Urrea – I have only read the one novel, ‘The House of Broken Angels’, but it is one of the most affectionate humorous family portraits I have ever read. Old man Big Angel gathers the family for his one last big birthday party before he dies. Like any occasion when we have not seen many of our relatives for a long time, we think back on these people and what they were like when they and we were young.

Viet Thanh Nguyen – Watch for this guy, because he has written two thoroughly wonderful works of fiction. ‘The Sympathizer’ tells the story of the Vietnam War from the victors’ point of view which we in the losing US rarely get to see or hear. ‘The Refugees’ is a fine collection of stories about the Vietnam refugees’ experience in the United States.

Tove Jansson – Tove Jansson was another Finnish writer who wrote both children’s books and adult novels and stories. The wonderful NYBR Classics series has brought back many great authors, and Tove Jansson is one of them. The simple language and dramatic events, especially in ‘The True Deceiver’, make her work outstanding.

Karen Russell – On no other novel have I lavished such paroxysms of delight as I have on Karen Russell’s ‘Swamplandia’. Afterwards I read a collection of Russell’s stories that was somewhat a disappointment, so now I’m wondering was ‘Swamplandia’ really that good? Sometimes a novel will just sweep you off your feet.

 

I could also have mentioned Jon McGregor, Lauren Groff, Lawrence Osborne, Juan Gabriel Vasquez, Anthony Doerr, etc. etc.

 

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22 responses to this post.

  1. Thanks for sharing this list. I have not read as much world fiction as I would like and I will keep this list. Have heard of several of these works but not read them. I’m sure our library has most of them.

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  2. What a great list! I’ve read most of them too, so I concur, except for Ferrante, who I enthused over at first, but then lost interest and ended up jettisoning the ones I’d bought and knew I would never read. I wasn’t at all keen on Sofi Oksanen either.
    But I’m intrigued by the three I haven’t read: Karen Russell, Luis Alberto Urrea and Tove Jansson (I’ve read Moomintroll, but no adult books). I’ll be looking out for all three now.
    PS I recently bought two by Simenon, in French, at a market stall for a song. I am not going to read any of his in English till I’ve read at least one of them:)

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    • Hi Lisa,
      I don’t have the option of reading Simenon in the original French, but as I mentioned above, I’m reading the English translation of his ‘Act of Passion’ novel now. So another Simenon review will be coming soon.
      When I read the last one ‘Dirty Snow’, I read the NYBR Classics version which was an old translation. However there was a new translation translated by Howard Curtis called ‘The Snow is Dirty’ which was just published by Penguin then. If I had known, I would have read that one just based on the title being better translated.
      There is a lot of activity with Simenon right now because the literary world discovered he was not just a detective novelist but a unique serious writer.

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  3. I agree with you about Aminatta Forna, Viet Thanh Nguyen and Yan Lianke. I’ve discovered them since blogging, though only Lianke did I discover through blogs. Forna was recommended to my reading group by a reading group member, and Nguyen was given to me by an American friend. For some reason I have no really interest in reading Ferrante. I’m not that keen on books in series (wth some exceptions, like Hilary Mantel’s Cromwell series.)

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    • Hi Sue,
      Ah yes, the Cromwell Trilogy. I remember when Wolf Hall was all the rage. I had read Hillary Mantel before I started this blog, so did not include her here. I see she is working on the third which apparently will be called ‘The Mirror and the Light’.
      I’m pretty sure you could write a similar list to mine of authors you have discovered since ‘Whispering Gums’ started.

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  4. Some great discoveries made…hope there are many more in the future. I didn’t like Gentleman in Moscow, so probably the only one I disagree so passionatly about, but disagreements are part of the fun.

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    • Hi Michael,,
      I did prefer ‘Rules of Civility’ to ‘A Gentleman in Moscow’, but still liked the second one.
      It seems like everyone has at least one of my choices they don’t agree with, and that’s the way it should be.

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  5. I’m the same – I could probably make a massive list if I was more organised! I love it when blogs introduce me to new writers. And agree about Towles – A Gentleman in Moscow was excellent and I should read his earlier novel.

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    • Hi Kaggsy,
      ‘A Gentleman in Moscow’ has been doing real well in sales, but I still prefer ‘Rules of Civility’. But ‘Gentlemen’ still made my Best of Year list near the lower reaches.

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  6. A lot of these are writers I have I only come across in my 5 years of blogging. I’m keen to read Simenon.

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  7. Hi Cathy,
    Yes, many of these names are the ones floating around on the literary blogs. Many others have discovered the non-detective fiction of Georges Simenon in recent years.

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  8. Great post. I’m a Towles fan. Will note some of the other authors. I’ve tried Simenon, but don’t enjoy him. Isn’t the Blogosphere a wonderful place? full of the most interesting ideas.

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    • Hi Alison,
      Amor Towles is unusual in that he didn’t publish his first novel, ‘Rules of Civility’, until he was 47. I think that is why he comes across as more self-assured, elegant, and cosmopolitan than other novelists.
      Before I started my own blog, I was an avid reader of other people’s blogs. I remember fondly especially Reading Matters and Asylum back in the old days.
      I see that your blog is about a lot of different subjects and that you get a lot of Likes.

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      • My despatchesfromtimbuktu blog is highly eclectic – yes! because life is crammed with fascinating info, objects and events. But my second blog, thebooksmithblog , also on WP, is focussed on books and reading. Nothing else. I write for pleasure, I’m not trying to sell or promote anything, so I have the freedom to write about whatever is currently occupying my butterfly mind. Enjoy! or not.

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  9. I love your sentence, “Elena Ferrante has pretty much taken over the world.” It is true! With the exception of Ferrante and Simenon I’ve read none of them. Am trying to get back to the 21st century: somehow I’m stuck in the 19th lately!

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    • Hi Kat,
      I haven’t seen anything like the Elena Ferrante phenomenon before. At one point someone suspected that her husband Domenico Starnone was writing Elena’s novels. So I read one of his own novels, and it was terrible, the worst novel I read last year. Throw that theory out.

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