I've also chosen novels by George Eliot, Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Marcel Proust. In the sixties, I taught an adult evening class on the novel, and the class insisted on doing not contemporary British but large 19th-century European novels. The class was, over many years, my education in the art of the novel, and these three are the authors who most extended my sense of what a novel could do besides tell a story—what it could talk about and think about, how it could make patterns inside what Henry James called the "loose baggy monster" of the form.
Books that change you, even later in life, give you a kind of electrical shock as the world takes a different shape. Emily Dickinson's completely individual voice did that to me when I was a student in America. And I've added my latest such shock—the Romanian Jewish poet Paul Celan.
A.S. Byatt is the author of Possession ; a film based on it was released June 2002.
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