Best of the EU

The 10 best European novels, from War and Peace to The Leopard

Philip Womack looks at what European culture has given us in the form of great literary works by Virgil, Voltaire, Kafka and Olga Tokarczuk

Friday 31 January 2020 15:58
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Left to right clockwise: War and Peace, The Leopard, Le Petit Prince, The Trial, Flights and Candide
Left to right clockwise: War and Peace, The Leopard, Le Petit Prince, The Trial, Flights and Candide

Now we have left the EU, it is worth remembering how deeply intertwined our literary culture has been with that of our continental neighbours. Beowulf, possibly the closest thing we have to a national epic, is a Danish saga related in Old English.

There would be no Chaucer without Petrarch; no Milton without Homer and Virgil; no Shakespeare without Ovid. Picking a mere 10 novels from the vast wealth on offer is an almost impossible task.

I have tried therefore to choose those that have had influence, or that are particularly original, or are relevant to our current trials. As with all lists, it is only a glimpse into something much, much wider. The Republic of Letters is a fluid, welcoming space: its boundaries will always be open.

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