International Shelf: Classics from Around the Globe
By Megan Powell and Laura Hasson
Welcome back, this week we speak with Meg and her 'international shelf', focusing on the love she has for classic literature. In this article Meg will introduce us to three books she believes should be on your shelves.
Introduce yourself Meg:
I'm an English student in my final year at university, with ambitions to work in publishing in the editorial department. I currently review literature on my blog and I am an avid Instagrammer of all things books.
Why classic literature?
This genre sparked my eternal love for reading. The experience of reading classic novels provides a deeper level of escapism, not just from the story but also the transportation to different historical societies all over the world.
How do you pick a book?
I try to follow my to be read pile, but I love finding recommendations through The Publishing Post and the book community on Instagram. The cover is also a selling point for me despite the idiom ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’.
Nice to [virtually] meet you!
Let's explore your 'International Shelf' Classics edition:
El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes (Spain)
Originally published in two parts, this novel is regarded as the most translated book in the world. A product of the Spanish Golden Age, Don Quixote received instant success and continues to grow in popularity from 1605. Don Quixote is determined to epitomise the nobility and heroism found in the books he reads. In his journey, he experiences strengths and failures with squire Sancho Panza. His bid to save the world is initially remarked as crazy by those around him but turns into pity when he causes more harm than good. The qualities of the titular character have inspired the term ‘quixotic’, which was created after the novel's publication, establishing the constant influence of this classic.
Cervantes’ radical message through Don Quixote explicates an individual being right in a wronged society. I appreciate the message behind the character of Don Quixote, where he tries to change the world, but the world doesn’t want to be changed and thinks their society is right, instead the individual must be wrong to think differently.
Madame Bovary: Mœurs de province by Gustave Flaubert (France)
When it comes to French classics, I'm sure that the works of Victor Hugo will instantly spring to the forefront of your mind. However, Flaubert takes the spotlight on my shelf with his debut classic Madame Bovary. Published in 1857, the novel’s popularity rose due to public reaction, questioning the obscenity featured. Emma’s marriage to Charles Bovary proves to be dull and not like the dreams she had as a child. Her satisfaction is tested as her expectations from passionate romantic fantasies are not met.
When Rudolphe expresses his interest in Emma. their very indiscreet affair begins, with Charles remaining oblivious. Soon Emma’s efforts and affections grow tiresome for Rudolphe, he leaves, and her debt grows. Then past love is rekindled when she encounters Leon, commencing Emma’s second love affair. This time she grows bored with Leon and her crippling debt causes the character to compensate in extreme lengths.
Like many classics I love, the obscenity trial allowed Flaubert’s novel to become a bestseller. It highlights the masterful literary realism, sparking the European realist movement.
Война и миръ by Leo Tolstoy (Russia)
It is no secret that Tolstoy is synonymous with tome. The Russian author has written many epic classics, such as Anna Karenina, but held in even more esteem is War and Peace (1869). With approximately 1225 pages and almost 600 characters, Tolstoy’s narrative provides an enticing historical and philosophical account, full of fascinating insight. Tolstoy’s critical narrative explores the French invasion of Russia and the Napoleonic impact of Russian society through aristocratic families. Although there is no central character, it is full of historical figures and mainly follows Pierre Bezukhov, Prince Andrei Bolkonsky and Natasha Rostov.
Tolstoy presents a social commentary on the struggles the Russians faced because of Napoleon’s invasion. This revolutionary novel depicts real characters surviving through crisis and political change, with qualities transferable to our society today. Tolstoy will get you, thinking, questioning and examining your attitude to life through the wisdom poured onto every page. Not to mention the captivating details throughout the novel from battlefields to aristocratic parties. The vivid descriptions capture the true essence of what I love about international classic novels, fully immersing the reader into a new place/country without having to leave your seat.
Thanks, Meg, for those insights, your international shelf took us on a brilliant historical journey. Join us next week when we explore another shelf. Happy Reading Everyone!