Reading is a bit like watching a movie, but with less moving images and text instead that you have to read. Well it’s not at all like watching a movie but it’s still really good. And in Europe we have a few cult books by country: these are the books that you absolutely have to read to be part of the coolkids of Europe (yes, it does exist).
1. Heidi by Johanna Spyri in Switzerland
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Do you remember the cartoon of Heidi, little mountain girl and her story capable of transforming a whole generation of toddlers into chronic depressives? Well, his adventures really began in 1881 in two novels published in Switzerland. The latter tell of the impossible adaptation of a young orphan girl full of life, forced to leave her high mountain pastures to reach the city in order to take care of a young paralytic blond girl… Big bullshit, the Swiss obviously love it!
2. Homer’s Iliad in Greece
Alongside this monument of ancient Greek literature, the intrigues surrounding the avengers look like a quiet family Sunday. In the Iliad, two camps mount the mess against the background of the Trojan War, all under the amused eye of the Gods who do not miss one to put their grain of sand in this epic fable. A true literary classic with all the superheroes and twists and turns that obviously continue to have fans 29 centuries after it was written.
3. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo in France
5 volumes, more than 1600 pages written very small, the best known of Victor Hugo’s novels is in more ways than one a mountain of French literature. From the one whose rise we constantly push back until we have to stick to it out of duty… to return to class most often. Well then, by dint of climbing its pages, we find ourselves a good walker especially accompanied by endearing characters, each in their own way, from Jean Valjean to Gavroche, via Cosette, Marius or those bastards Thénardier. Wretchedit is certainly a summit, but the experience is well worth the effort, in particular because it transpires from the great republican values and the great battles that have animated French society for centuries.
4. The Prodigious Friend (L’Amica geniale) by Elena Ferrante in Italy
Two kids growing up in the 1950s in a popular district of Naples. Destinies that intersect, separate, escape through back doors… to reappear later, further, to erase oblivion… this autobiographical saga is like its title “a prodigious friend” for more than 40 million readers, not to mention a family that has grown even more all over the world with the series adaptation of this autobiographical tetralogy.
5. Millenium: The Men Who Didn’t Love Women by Stieg Larsson in Sweden
Starting point of the Trilogy and of the literary fashion for thrillers with black covers and red typos, this novel also enthrones the central character of the obscure Lisbeth Salander, who would make any goth look like a big mess. We are here on classic, cobblestone, who likes to paint life with touches of bastards… without ever worrying too much about nuances.
6. Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon in Spain
This is the story of a rather special cemetery where forgotten books are buried, the memory of which only a few initiates perpetuate. Among them, a bookseller’s son who follows in the footsteps of the works of a mysterious novelist and those who make his memory resonate. A more interior and intimate journey than it seems, which has been translated into 36 languages since its publication in 2001 and has sold more than 15 million copies worldwide!
7. Kafka’s Metamorphosis in Germany
If we had to make it simple, we would tell you that this short story tells the story of a young salesman who discovers when he jumps out of bed that he has transformed during the night into a monstrous insect and that he thinks he will find refuge in the next to his relatives in the family home. In truth, there are more than a hundred theories around the story imagined in 1915 by the Austro-Hungarian author, with the common point, that of the metamorphosis mentioned in the title which is not that of the central character. but well that of his entourage exposed to the monstrosity of one of their own. A logically “Kafkaesque” plot – meaning absurd and oppressive!
8. Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace in Russia
This historical novel of 2000 pages in its long version begins with challenge and ends with pride. It takes months to hope to see the end of it. The kind of work that makes us give up, stunned by the weight of this cobblestone, before resuming later because hey, we’re not going to be intimidated by a few hundred slightly indigestible pages. The pride then when we finally get to the end, to tell ourselves that we got out of it unscathed, even if in real life our memory capacity took quite a hit and did not record half of the details of the story.
9. The unbearable lightness of being by Milan Kundera in the Czech Republic
This is a novel that smells of life, love, ass, with the backdrop of the politics of a Czechoslovakia taken under the communist yoke. An unbearable lightness of being told by the Czech novelist naturalized French through four characters who frolic with their regrets, their passions or their absences. A novel not so light as that in the face of the heaviness of destinies, which we can watch in film rather than leaf through, in a watered down version with Juliette Binoche and Daniel Day-Lewis released in 1988.
10. Harry Mulisch’s Discovery of the Sky in the Netherlands
A God who is fed up with humans, an angel sent to Earth to seal the fate of Humanity who becomes a spectator of the meeting between a misanthropic linguist, shy and solitary with a womanizer, orphan of a deported Jewish mother and of a collaborating father. Sounds like a new season of the awesome series The Preacherbut it’s Harry Mulisch, a Dutch author who isn’t afraid to throw stones (1140 pages) into the water, with a plot as intelligent as it is caustic.