Sunday, 16 June 2019


if Seize the Day is, as I opined in the last post, 'one of the great short novels of the 20th century', what are the others?
Here's my provisional top ten (of novels under 200 reasonably spaced pages that aren't long short stories) –

Joseph Conrad Heart of Darkness
Henry James The Beast in the Jungle (other prime contenders are disqualified by date)
Willa Cather The Lost Lady
Flannery O'Connor Wise Blood
Vladimir Nabokov Transparent Things
Muriel Spark The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
Jean Rhys Wide Sargasso Sea
J.L. Carr A Month in the Country
Penelope Fitzgerald The Bookshop
Samuel Beckett Ill Seen Ill Said

Actually, with Seize the Day, that would make 11. Never mind.
Any thoughts?


  1. Better make that The Great Gatsby in place of Miss Jean Brodie, I think.

  2. Death in Venice - dull story of suppressed pederasty, illuminated by the wonderful prose of Mann.

  3. Tomasi di Lampedusa, Giuseppe, The Leopard
    Steinbeck, John, Of Mice and Men

  4. Chess Story by Stefan Zweig (NYRBC)

  5. Filip Florian, Little Fingers

    Penelope Fitzgerald, The Gate of Angels

    Thomas Bernhard, Old Masters,

    Claire Gallois, A Scent of Lilies

    Charles Portis, True Grit

    François Mauriac, Thérèse Desqueyroux

    Katherine Anne Porter, Noon Wine

    Leo Perutz, The Swedish Cavalier

    A. Papadiamantos, The Murderess (I think it’s twentieth-century, but might be just before.)

  6. Wouldn't you know, I forgot one:

    Richard Wiley, Soldiers in Hiding

  7. Sorry, my pick was a novella.

  8. Thanks all. Some great suggestions there, tho I'm afraid several of the best are too long to qualify – The Leopard, The Gate of Angels, True Grit. Conversely Chess Story is perhaps more of a long short story – maybe Amok or Journey into the Past? Something by Joseph Roth, who wrote so much good short fiction? An intriguing list from Baceseras – thanks. I hadn't even heard of several of those, and am wondering if Katherine Anne Porter might be the kind of writer I like...

    1. Signet brought out the volume Pale Horse, Pale Rider, which includes that short novel along with Noon Wine and Old Mortality. You can probably find the book without much trouble. I prefer Pale Horse, Pale Rider and Old Mortality to Noon Wine; but whether you would, and whether you would like Katherine Ann Porter at all, I don't know. It is a very slim volume, and worth a look, though.

  9. Ford Madox Ford's The Good Soldier qualifies...

  10. A late entry: Thornton Wilder's The Bridge of San Luis Rey

  11. One could call Hadji Murad a novella. It was completed and published in the 20th Century, and I should say that it is certainly great.

  12. Thanks. Good candidates both, and many years since I read either of them.