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What is the best novel ever written in any language?The discussion I started about...

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William Delaney | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 3, 2012 at 9:43 PM via web

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What is the best novel ever written in any language?

The discussion I started about "What is the best English novel? got a little bit off the tracks because people were mentioning writers like Hemingway and Mark Twain. Even James Joyce is not an English writer and his great Ulysses is therefore not, strictly speaking, an English novel.

So, all right! What in your opinion is the best all-time novel ever written in any language?

I think I would have to go with Marcel Proust's masterpiece originally titled A la recherche du temps perdu and translated into English masterfully by Scott Moncrieff with the composite title of Remembrance of Things Past.

I could name several other novels--but I won't set a bad example. I hope that anybody who wants to answer will name just one novel.

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Kristen Lentz | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted July 3, 2012 at 11:12 PM (Answer #2)

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Hmmm... So many possibilities, it's hard to choose.  So instead of trying to sound pretentiously erudite, I am going to stand by a personal all-time favorite: The Lord of the Rings.  Not only is it one of the greatest books of the twentieth century, this novel continues to speak to readers through its tale of good overcoming evil through impossible odds.  Chain-smoking wizards and hobbits aside, this novel is still relevant and hugely popular today.

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marbar57 | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted July 3, 2012 at 11:47 PM (Answer #3)

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My all-time favorite novel, and one I keep reading over and over again, is The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. It is a delightful tale of three particular characters overcoming obstacles, learning forgiveness, and reawakening and wanting to live again. The author uses such descriptive language you can close your eyes and picture what is happening. As a child, I would almost live in the world of Misselthwaite Manor. I ate, slept, and drank that book from start to finish! I've probably read it at least a half dozen times in my life and I never tire of it.

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mizradane | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted July 4, 2012 at 1:57 AM (Answer #4)

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The Autobiography , " The diary of Anne Frank " would also fall into that catagory of the best novel. It is about the Jewish girl Anne Frank and the difficul times that they had to go through under the Narzi regime.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 4, 2012 at 2:52 AM (Answer #5)

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This is such a difficult question, for how can there be one "greatest" since literature involves so much of the reader and what he/she brings to the work? Even in a person's single experience, there are different ages, different experiences that shade the selection, and, of course, such different cultural perspectives of novels from various countries.

The Russian novels are ones that evoke exclamations from the reader as she closes the book, having been absolutely mesmerized by the recordings of the Russian soul that defies definition. So, the vote goes to Fyodor Dostovesky's The Brothers Karamazov.   Dostovesky, like Faulkner and Joyce, searches, searches for the truth with profundity and complexity. One critic describes him as

the most literary and compulsively readable of novelists we continue to regard as great.

I must agree.

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Michelle Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted July 4, 2012 at 3:13 PM (Answer #6)

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Like #5 said, this is very hard to decide. I will say, though, that I would be willing to learn a new language just to be able to read a novel in its original language, if I could. I would learn Russian just for this purpose, for example. 

However, being that I am blessed to be a Spanish speaker I have to say that the best novel ever written is Don Quijote de la Mancha, of course. This is the reason why.

When you read Don Quijote, something magical happens. They call it "Quijotizarse" in Spanish, which really means that you get way into the novel in a way that it becomes three-dimensional, almost. At one point you begin to question whether what you are reading is fact or fiction. It happens automatically and especially when you hit the Siglo de Oro chapter. It really, truly is mysterious what that book can do to you. It is almost like "white hole" that sucks in everything that is bright and creative about the reader, and when the novel is over you really feel that you have been given something truly wonderful. It is very hard to explain. It is quite real, though. 

 

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William Delaney | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 4, 2012 at 7:17 PM (Answer #7)

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So far there are seven picks with no duplicates:

Remembrance of Things Past

The Lord of the Rings

The Secret Garden

The Diary of Anne Frank

The Brothers Karamazov

Don Quijote de la Mancha

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

 

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stolperia | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted July 4, 2012 at 7:46 PM (Answer #8)

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Obviously, everyone brings their own personal opinions and interpretations to the answering of this question. Defining "the best" of almost anything gets into the realm of personal values and judgements, which means any one person's choice will always be open to debate and disagreement by someone else.

Having said all that, and since I have to admit that I don't have the fluency to read any novel in any language other than English, I would nominate The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I don't know the basis for excluding Twain, as it sounds like you have done, billdelaney, but I find the character portrayals and use of the language (in all its dialects) masterfully written.

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e-martin | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted July 4, 2012 at 9:48 PM (Answer #9)

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I don't expect to find much agreement on this one, but I have asked myself the question before if Robert Penn Warren's novel All the King's Men might be the greatest novel ever written. Warren is not the greatest novelist in history when we look at his body of work, but he certainly is a master of the medium and he wrote this one masterpiece. 

I admire the depth and variety of many of the suggestions above and I know we won't come to a consensus pick, so I'll just make my argument for this book as one of many book-loving arguments in the debate.

Out of all the novels I've read, I find the form to be most fully expressed and fully explored with poetry of language, resonance of symbol and theme, and philosophical depth inAll the King's Men.  

It's really well balanced, completely tied together, and structured in a way to enhance the significance and the narrative momentum of each section of the text making the book gripping, readable and satisfying.   

I believe the best writers of novels worked in the 1920s - 1940s and that Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy are right up there too. But for a single, stand-out A-1, top drawer novel, I'm going to go with the underdog, All the King's Men.

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etotheeyepi | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted July 4, 2012 at 10:39 PM (Answer #10)

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The Jungle by Upton Sinclair because he intended it to promote socialism; but it in unexpected ways, it promotes capitalism.

Anna Karenina because Theodore Roosevelt read it to stay awake while he guarded cattle thieves

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William Delaney | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 5, 2012 at 12:11 AM (Answer #11)

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In reply to stolperia (#8) above, I wouldn't dream of excluding Mark Twain. I fully expected at least one person to name The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as the best novel of all time in any language. Here is what I wrote in post #1:

The discussion I started about "What is the best English novel?" got a little bit off the tracks because people were mentioning writers like Hemingway and Mark Twain. Even James Joyce is not an English writer and his great Ulysses is therefore not, strictly speaking, an English novel.

This new discussion concerns the best novel written in any language at any time by a writer of any nationality. So far there are ten choices:

Remembrance of Things Past

The Lord of the Rings

The Secret Garden

The Diary of Anne Frank

The Brothers Karamazov

Don Quijote de la Mancha

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

All the King's Men

The Jungle

Anna Karenina

 

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iqratariq | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 3) eNoter

Posted July 9, 2012 at 11:33 AM (Answer #12)

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there are alot of novels which are very good and always interesting. as far as my interest in concerned the best novel is peer-e-kamil written by Umera Ahmed. this novel is written in urdu and is now translated in english as well. that is a very fascinating novel.

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msnewbooklover | Student, Grade 9 | (Level 2) Honors

Posted July 12, 2012 at 2:28 PM (Answer #13)

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well i will defintly say hunger games trioligy as showing the future world with a beautiful combination of struggle to survive,friendship,humanity,love...

 

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janetlong | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted July 30, 2012 at 6:54 PM (Answer #14)

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War and Peace (Tolstoy) is my top pick. Anna Karenina is structurally tidier--a more perfectly built novel, but War and Peace is a tornado and must be excused from strictly following the rules. Tolstoy's cast of bazillions reflect all the characteristics of human thought and behavior without the convenience of unshaded heroes or perfect villains. Two of the many images that stay with readers are the exquisitely sweet domestic description of a very young elated Sonya spinning in her dress and dropping into the vortex of its skirt and the grim description of the Russian army's relentless decimation of the French retreating over the Berezina. Tolstoy handles it all.

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academy633 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted August 6, 2012 at 12:14 PM (Answer #15)

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I would suggest "Gone With The Wind" for the insights it provides into the impact of civil war (and war in general) on the lives of people who are caught up in the tensions and violence.

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mdangel | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted August 11, 2012 at 9:53 AM (Answer #16)

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What is the best novel ever written in any language?

The discussion I started about "What is the best English novel? got a little bit off the tracks because people were mentioning writers like Hemingway and Mark Twain. Even James Joyce is not an English writer and his great Ulysses is therefore not, strictly speaking, an English novel.

So, all right! What in your opinion is the best all-time novel ever written in any language?

I think I would have to go with Marcel Proust's masterpiece originally titled A la recherche du temps perdu and translated into English masterfully by Scott Moncrieff with the composite title of Remembrance of Things Past.

I could name several other novels--but I won't set a bad example. I hope that anybody who wants to answer will name just one novel.

Are you saying that Hemingway (b. near Chicago, Illinois) and Twain (b. Samuel Clemens in Florida, MO) are not English writers? Their books have not been translated into English like Proust's.

I am not a fan of Hemingway; there are better writers that I enjoy more: Ambrose Pierce for one but he never wrote a novel.

Now, Mark Twain, I have loved ever since I read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer at age 10. I would not nominate Sawyer either. Huckleberry Finn comes to mind or even better, Pudd'nhead Wilson--absolutely a favorite.

Tonite it would be Pudd'nhead Wilson, but I also love To Kill a Mockingbird. First read that when I was 13.

You asked for just one novel, though, didn't you? I don't think it's possible.

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maryam-a412 | Student, College Freshman | (Level 2) eNoter

Posted August 17, 2012 at 12:50 PM (Answer #17)

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Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte is THE best book iv ever read!

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greckah | High School Teacher | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted August 20, 2012 at 2:25 PM (Answer #18)

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I have The Little Prince by Saint Ex in my mind,...its really a great novel and it teaches superb values in life. Since this world is surrounded by people, old and young, it's great for us everybody to read and admire this novel. Besides, it's translated i guess for over a hundred and two languages...moreso, i am amazed of the different characters met by the little prince--from the king to the geographer and to some creatures of earth. Though, it's somehow fictional, visualization of truth can strike through every man's heart,.. :)

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jjrichardson | Student, College Freshman | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted August 20, 2012 at 11:35 PM (Answer #19)

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War and Peace. Hands down!

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cdives | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted August 27, 2012 at 11:28 PM (Answer #21)

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 There is wonderful literature that has transcended the ages such as Canterbury Tales or Oedipus Rex. But despite being favorites of English teachers are these the best? There are novels that really aren't necissarily great literature but have caught the attention of the masses (such as the current love for 50 Shades of Gray) does this make them somehow "great"? There are books that make us question where we are going as society (Fahrenheit 451, 1984) that somehow foresaw potential problems with a near-future.

When I was 3 I would have told you Green Eggs and Ham was the greatest book ever written. When I was 11 it was Little Men (no definitely not Little Women). Throughout most of my teens the best book was The Outsiders. When I was 17 I loved The Stand by Stephen King.  As I moved into adulthood I fell in love with Crime and Punishment, War and Peace and many others.

So, I think the best book that is written in any language, while a personal choice, should have certain criteria:

  • it should be accessible to a wide audience (not just us English geeks)
  • it should transcend race, gender, age
  • it should speak a universal truth
  • it should have believable and flawed characters
  • it should be written in a way that carries the reader away, while somehow grounding him or her (see the post mentioning Man of Lamancha)
  • it should stay with the  reader long after the reader has finished reading the book, and potentially cause an inherent change in the way the reader thinks
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wordprof | College Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted August 28, 2012 at 9:37 PM (Answer #22)

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My nominee is Bulwer-Lytton's What Will He Do With It?  Because no taxonomies are innocent.

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iklan100 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted August 29, 2012 at 3:55 AM (Answer #23)

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I think that in terms of sustained popularity and high quality of writing, I'd also go with the ''Lord of the Rings'' by Tolkien.

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florine | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted August 31, 2012 at 11:56 AM (Answer #24)

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     I bet for me it would be a novel written by a 19th century French writer like Balzac, Stendhal or Hugo. Maybe, as regards 19th century French literature, the most remarkable achievement is Les Misérables by Victor Hugo. It's one of the greatest popular French novels. It describes historical events of paramount importance and portrays unforgettable characters like Jean Valjean or Marius. Otherwise, Balzac's Comédie humaine and more particularly Le Père Goriot and Splendeurs et misères des courtisanes are capital literary works.

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William Delaney | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted September 1, 2012 at 4:31 PM (Answer #25)

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When I was about fourteen years old I read Les Miserables and was captivated by it. It is magnificent. Now, however, I can see that the novel is a little improbable and melodramatic. The main conflict is this Inspector Javert conceiving such a hatred for Jean Valjean that he hounds him practically all his life--and then commits suicide because Valjean could kill him but lets him go out of Christian forgiveness. What Javert can't stand about Valjean is that he is so insufferably good. The other improbability is that Jean Valjean's character and entire life are changed because that bishop gave him some silver candlesticks. I didn't question such human goodness when I was fourteen, but I have seen more of humanity since then.

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