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Mid-20th century authors

Not exactly an individual author, but a group of them.  At university one of our options was the modern novel and we read (or sometimes didn't read) a number of these which presumably at the time had high reputations.  It was for an English degree but these novels seemed to be from all over Europe.

Some of the authors and/or books I remember were Saul Bellow, John Barth, The French Lieutenant's Woman, Iris Murdoch, The Mandelbaum Gate, Patrick White, Christa Wolf (I thought her novel had Golden in the title but maybe that was a different one since I don't see this in a list of them).  I think the Barth novel was considered dense beyond readability and I don't think I even attempted it.  We read a lot of Conrad and Ulysses and some Virginia Woolf but I feel this may have been a separate course.  There was also a woman author whose shortish novels were almost entirely written in dialogue; her name escapes me at the moment.  Double-barrelled surname, I think. There were others but I have forgotten them.  

How do these writers stack up nowadays, does anyone know?  Are their reputations still high?  Are their concerns still ours?

Cheers, Caro.

These are all writers who were around in the 50s, 60s and 70s, and as far as I know, most are still highly regarded. I am not too sure about John Barth's reputation, but certainly, Muriel Spark, Iris Murdoch, Saul Bellow, Patrick White, John Fowles and Christa Wolf are all well represented in the fiction shelves in Foyles.

Muriel Spark gets mentioned on these boards quite frequently - I think she is one of Evie's favourites - but the rest of them don't seem to make up much of our discussions.  I have a lot of Iris Murdoch's books but re-reading one of them recently I wasn't so impressed.  The one I remember with most affection is The French Lieutenant's Woman, which perhaps suggests nothing more than that I prefer the 19th century novel to this era.  I do want to read this again sometime.  Perhaps I should make a specific list and stick to it.  (But then I would miss the new books that come out or the light nothings I like to vary my reading with or the non-fiction historical things I learn from.)

Ivy Compton-Burnett was the other author I was thinking of who wrote what I recall as unpleasant little family stories in dialogue.  Must try one of these again too.

Cheers, Caro.

I think John Barth is still a pretty big name in the US, probably more so than over here. He is also probably a bigger name with academic critics than general readers. He is seen as one of the key figures of US postmodernist fiction (especially of the metafiction variety), and one of its key theorists. He is an academic as well as a novelist - his essays 'The Literature of Exhaustion' and 'The Literature of Replenishment' are considered seminal, almost 'postmodernist manifestos'.

Personally I've never got very far with any of his books, which probably says more about me than the books. They always sound interesting when you read about them.

I alwasy think of Muriel Spark, Doris Lessing and Iris (I nearly typed Rupert!) Murdoch as in a bracket together when I think of women writers of this period. I dont kniow where I got this idea from. They all seem a bit serious and formidably clever.

Elizabeth Bowen as a bit earlier  - though she set some of her books around WW2 - as was Jean Rhys.

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