I don’t want to cheat – I’m not that kind of trickish guy. So I will observe your “five favorite books” principle.
Nevertheless, I hope you will agree with me that Proust’s A la Recherche du Temps Perdu is one book only (no matter the numerous volumes counted in… and the thousands of pages). Thank you.
Le Rouge et le Noir, Stendhal : My first serious novel. My first literary experience. I was eleven. It was my birthday and a friend of my mothers offered me the book. Mother said, Well, I think it’s a grown-up reading, and she put it in a drawer. Later that night, when everyone was asleep, I got up and seeked out the forbidden book. I went back to bed and started to read it immediately. I spent 24h hours in bed reading that outstanding novel. Had no lunch, no dinner – just water and chocolate. Mother tried to protest but she couldn’t be sincerely angry because she admired Stendhal herself (as she would tell me the day after), and enjoyed to see me in the same enthusiastic frame of mind.
Anna Karénine, Tolstoï : The greatest portrayal of a woman ever written.
À la Recherche du Temps Perdu, Marcel Proust : The « total book », a world by its own, an incredible portrait gallery and a very new way of writing. I read it every ten years. And each time, the novel happens to sound different and richer, to show me a new facet of its famous rose-window, something I did not see the time before, like a never-ending exploration of an archeological treasure named memory.
Light in August, William Faulkner: I use to call him “the Boss”. Faulkner is to me the absolute
monument of the 20th century’s literature. And Light in August may be his masterpiece, the book where all his skills gather to make a very moving and questioning novel. The one that definitively embodies the Deep South tragedy.
Last Exit to Brooklyn, Hubert Selby Jr : A real shock. A beneficent one. As psychological as aesthetic. To any young novice writer who comes to me to seek my advice, I say, First, read Selby’s Last Exit to Brooklyn. Then we talk.
Alabama Song van Uitgeverij Cossee is nu verkrijgbaar.