Yesterday morning I woke up thinking about totalitarianism and book burning and tweeted the following question:
If They confiscated all our books but those by a single writer I would keep Beckett. And you?
— Anthony (@timesflow) June 25, 2013
I’ve not asked many questions on Twitter and was unprepared for the volume of replies. (I retweeted all the replies and was also surprised by the number of followers that got pissed off at all my retweets and unfollowed me. The perfunctory nature of relationships on Twitter still bemuses me.)
There were some replies which got revised later in the day, also some second and third options. I’m sorry but They will not allow this flexibility, so I’ve listed only those intuitive first choices. With multiple mentions were:
- Samuel Beckett (5)
- Fyodor Dostoevsky (4)
- Vladimir Nabokov (3)
- PG Wodehouse (3)
- Jorge Luis Borges (3)
- Homer (2)
- James Joyce (2)
- Theodor Adorno (2)
Then a long-tail of writers with single mentions: Fernando Pessoa, Patrick White, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Maurice Blanchot (non-fiction only), Jacques Derrida, Siri Hustvedt, JG Ballard, Roberto Bolaño, John McGahern, GWF Hegel, Friedrich Hölderlin, John Berger, Walter Benjamin, Richard Dawkins, Gustave Flaubert, Roland Barthes, John Fante, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Honoré de Balzac, H.D., Aldous Huxley, Julio Cortazar, Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Kenzaburō Ōe, László Krasznahorkai, Naguib Mahfouz, John Steinbeck, James Baldwin, Madeleine L’Engle, Denis Johnson, Baba Muhammad Yahya Khan, Albert Camus, Sylvia Plath, Bill Watterson (Calvin and Hobbes), Aleksandar Hemon, Franz Kafka, William Shakespeare, Robert Walser, Saadat Hasan Manto, George Eliot, Virginia Woolf, Ernst Jünger, JM Coetzee, Søren Kierkegaard, Joan Didion, Karl Marx and Hans Christian Andersen.
It is a superb list of writers, with a bias towards classical modernism and theory, but a self-selected audience to some extent of people who follow me on Twitter and people at one or two removes who saw retweets of my original question. As far as one can tell gender on Twitter, there was a balanced response but women writers are underrepresented in the final tally.
I know some of my readers here are not on Twitter, so let’s play with the WordPress Poll option, which I’ve never tried before. Same question: