Novels That Will Be Considered the Most Important Literary Works of the Twentieth Century in the Year 2100 (According to Dalkey Archive)

Novels That Will Be Considered the Most Important Literary Works of the Twentieth Century in the Year 2100

Nightwood, Djuna Barnes
Malone Dies, Samuel Beckett
Molloy, Samuel Beckett
The Unnamable, Samuel Beckett
The Lime Works, Thomas Bernhard
Nostromo, Joseph Conrad
JR, William Gaddis
The Recognitions, William Gaddis
Ulysses, James Joyce
One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
At Swim-Two-Birds, Flann O’Brien
The Inquisitory, Robert Pinget
Remembrance of Things Past, Marcel Proust
Gravity’s Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon
Mulligan Stew, Gilbert Sorrentino

Speculative list from the Dalkey Archive (from an issue of their journal Context; compiled from responses  of “advisors at universities and bookstores”). I’m sure the fact that they publish several of these titles has nothing to do with these books’ inclusion. I’ve read all of seven of these, some of five of these, and none of three of these.

11 thoughts on “Novels That Will Be Considered the Most Important Literary Works of the Twentieth Century in the Year 2100 (According to Dalkey Archive)”

  1. With the exception of the Marquez, I have read every book on this list, and I love most of them, especially The Inquisitory and JR, but this is a ridiculous list, and made doubly ridiculous by the omission of any DeLillo. If someone in the year 2100 wants to understand what the world was like from 1950-2000 they will read DeLillo, especially Libra, Mao II and Underworld. And to not include Infinite Jest is absurd. The cult of DFW is growing year by year, as is the book’s reputation as THE novel of the 1990s. Nightwood? Mulligan Stew (and I’m a huge Sorrentino fan)? Okay, whatever. I thought the Dalkey Archive was better than this. This is a lazy list. But then again, any list that aims to speculate what people will be reading in 100 years is ridiculous, as is anyone who gets all worked up over this type of list, so I guess that makes me ridiculous, too. Time for a bagel.


    1. The list is pretty old, I think. I was looking for something else when I found it (this is always the way) and thought it would be fun to run it. I think it’s odd that Bernhard’s The Lime Works is listed and not Correction, and At Swim beating out Third Policemen is weird—and that three of Beckett’s novels are listed!—DFW and DeLillo are major omissions, obviously. No Faulkner. Most of the stuff was composed in English, too. The list is very much old dead white guys stuff (Barnes only woman?!). Etc.

      But lists like these are just for fun, I think—fun and rage. Enjoy the bagel.


  2. Nightwood is an absolutely AMAZING novel and is highly underrated. (I should know, I wrote a thesis on it for a class.) It incorporates so many aspects which certain people try to impose the concept of “shame” upon. It truly reveals the side of human nature which some refuse to admit they possess themselves.


  3. The list is not that bad I guess,but the fact that one can predict what people will be reading in the next many years undoubtedly qualifies this list to be a winner among many cliches.It is in ‘dire need of refreshment’.


  4. If the Beckett trilogy counts for three, Proust is getting hard done by. Decent Irish showing in that list. (Surprised to hear you rank the Third Policeman higher than At Swim. I would have always considered At Swim the masterpiece.) For such a good publisher of translated stuff, you would think there’d be a few obscure names.


    1. At Swim-Two-Birds is fantastic, but I like the metaphysical games of The Third Policeman—I also think that Third Policeman is more, I don’t know, *perfect* —- that’s a lame aesthetic crutch, but I think Policeman seems more complete or realized or even fully imagined—although ASTB is near-perfect too—just more assemblage, it shows its debt to Ulysses perhaps too much).


  5. Lists are fun. Thought provoking for what is omitted. Do we only speak English and a litttle Spanish? I heard say there wuz some purty fine books in some far away places.


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