This past quarter-century has been the 25 Years of Solitude. At least according to a new poll from the international literary magazine Wasafiri, which asked 25 “respected names in international writing” to celebrate its 25th anniversary by naming 25 books that most shaped world literature in the past 25 years. (Naturally, the magazine released the results of its poll on Sept. 25).
Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, a high school reading-list stalwart and bearer of the hallowed Oprah sticker, was chosen three times, so there are technically only 23 different selections. But that kind of ruins the numerology of the whole thing.
Wasafiri‘s guidelines seem to have been somewhat nebulous; the books apparently did not have to be published in the past 25 years (Solitude came out in 1967, and Lolita in 1955); they just had to be influential within that time period. García Márquez’s epic genealogical history definitely fulfills that requirement, since it’s the magical realist forebear to books like Life of Pi, The Lovely Bones, and pretty much anything by Haruki Murakami.
Two writers have two different titles on the list: Salman Rushdie is cited for both Midnight’s Children and The Satanic Verses, while Canadian novelist Michael Ondaatje is recognized for The English Patient and Anil’s Ghost. Other interesting picks include President Obama’s memoir Dreams From My Father, which British writer Marina Warner called “definitely the most influential book historically,” and Ludwig Wittgenstein’s heart-pounding page-turner detective novel Philosophical Investigations. OK, maybe it’s more an abstract treatise on linguistics and cognition than a detective novel, but it’s still a heart-pounding page-turner.
Here’s the full list of panelists, with the titles each chose:
1. Aminatta Forna: The Famished Road by Ben Okri
2. Amit Chaudhuri: Collected Poems by Elizabeth Bishop
3. Bernardine Evaristo: Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain by Peter Fryer
4. Beverley Naidoo: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D Taylor
5. Blake Morrison: The Stories of Raymond Carver by Raymond Carver
6. Brian Chikwava: The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño
7. Chika Unigwe: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
8. Daljit Nagra: North by Seamus Heaney
9. David Dabydeen: A House for Mr. Biswas by V.S. Naipaul
10. Elaine Feinstein: Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes
11. Fred D’Aguiar: Palace of the Peacock by Wilson Harris
12. Hirsh Sawhney: River of Fire by Quarratulain Hyder
13. Indra Sinha: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
14. John Haynes: Philosophical Investigations by Ludwig Wittgenstein
15. Lesley Lokko: Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
16. Maggie Gee: Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee
17. Marina Warner: Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama
18. Maya Jaggi: The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
19. Michael Horovitz: Collected Poems by Allen Ginsberg
20. Minoli Salgado: Anil’s Ghost by Michael Ondaatje
21. Nii Parkes: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
22. Roger Robinson: Sula by Toni Morrison
23. Sujata Bhatt: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
24. Sukhdev Sandhu: The Private Life of Chairman Mao by Dr Li Zhisui
25. Tabish Khair: The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
Agree with these choices? Disagree? Any particularly grievous omissions?