10 Novel Pilihan Colm Toibin

Rumah Colm Toibin

  • "Company by Samuel Beckett -- This is a late short work, mesmeric, full of repetitions starts and stops. Every word has an astonishing weight and every sentence a sort of gruff music. Nothing happens. But a voice speaks. And it is the tone and quality of that voice which haunts and holds. This is a master class in tone and texture.

  • A Book of Common Prayer by Joan Didion -- I came to this book when I had started to work as a journalist and had already read Didion's The White Album, which I loved and admired. But there was an extraordinary power behind this novel, wonderful sharp sentences and brilliant use of repetition, great sense of observation and comedy. Again, a stunning use of voice.

  • Doctor Faustus by Thomas Mann -- The Second World War is coming to an end; an old humanist in Germany, devastated by what has become of his country, tells the story of his doomed friend, the genius composer Adrian Leverkuhn. This is complex and dense, a novel which deals with tradition as tragedy, with lectures on German music, and always in the background a sense of evil encroaching. The minor scenes and characters are fascinating, they read like gossip against the heavier, more Germanic sequences. I love the use of history and scholarship and then the great sense of character and story.

  • Daniel Deronda by George Eliot -- This is a sprawling big novel, a story of unrequited love and unhappy marriage, with much sensuality and mystery, much foolishness and a great deal of wisdom. It is, for the first half, a sweeping drama of the old sort, and then slowly it becomes a novel about the origins of Zionism. I love Deronda more than I love anyone else in fiction. I love his earnestness, his good humor, his seriousness and intensity, his dutiful nature. But I also love Gwendolyn, who is flighty and rash and deserves what she gets until she gets it.

  • Age of Iron by J. M Coetzee -- Again, voice. An old woman is dying. It is the last days of apartheid. South Africa is falling apart. This is her letter to her daughter. The prose is taut, nervous; our narrator has a sharp intelligence but does not suffer from self-pity. An old tramp haunts her house; she gets caught in a riot; her body decays. The style is riveting, utterly convincing.

  • Amongst Women by John McGahern -- This is a lesson in how to structure a novel and how to modulate a tone. But you don't notice the skill at first; you notice the plot and the characters and the rhythms of the story, which seem as natural and elemental as the seasons. It is the story of old Moran, an Irish tyrant, and his three daughters. It is a perfect novel whose simplicity is deeply deceptive, but no less compelling for that.

  • The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James -- This is a great cathedral of a novel. It is perfectly made, exquisite in its style and detail and construction. But is also contains a sense of evil, of real duplicity and treachery. It is a great American novel in that it deals with a woman in possession of a bright openness to life and experience, wanting as innocently as she can everything from life. Her very skill at self-invention and self-reliance makes her prey to darker forces whom she does not recognize but will slowly come to know.

  • The Trial by Franz Kafka -- This a great nightmare, which, when you wake up from it, is replaced by a nastier reality. Kafka was not playing a game with this but sets up the arrest and detention of his hero with immense conviction, down to every strange detail and piece of embarrassment and piece of cruelty, so that you become him and hope that he will survive, while the author seems to laugh darkly in the background at your foolishness.

  • Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe -- Achebe caught a Nigerian community at the moment of change from a tightly knit and organic society to the new world order, when colonial forces would destroy the old quasi-feudal and equally oppressive world. This reads like a ballad, and its procedures have the same melancholy inevitability as the words of a beautiful old song.

  • Island by Alistair McLeod -- These are the collected stories of a great Canadian storyteller. They are full of the harsh, bleak landscape of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, where family loyalties are fierce, where memory brings a terrible sadness with it. McLeod writes with great tenderness, handling time and place with a master's skill. His characters are deeply rooted, and thus when uprooted, live a deeply gnarled existence. He writes with very special ease about childhood and old age.

  • The Enigma of Arrival by V. S. Naipaul -- This is a novel about exile and solitude, a slow-moving and gripping novel about the sort of life which the author himself, in exile from Trinidad, has lived in England. He is very observant; nothing is lost on him. He does not miss home, but misses some larger completion that evades him as he walks the lanes of England and works on his sentences. Slowly, the novel builds up a sort of power, created, I think, by sheer levels of intense concentration on a single consciousness and a single experience. And out of it comes something universal and strange.

  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen -- This is the flowering of the English novel. It is witty and wise; there is not a single flaw in this book, or a single moment that you do not relish. When people are good in Austen, they are very, very good, with a refined sensibility matched with kindness and intelligence and sensitivity. When they are bad, mostly they are only slightly bad, unless they are funny and then they are very, very funny."
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