12 unmissable classic books of universal literature

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What is a classic in literature? It is a book that has transcended the boundaries of its time and to which we always return. A classic does not lose its relevance because it revolves around values, ideas or feelings that constitute the great themes of humanity: love, existential anguish, death, violence, war, sin or beliefs, for example.

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“A classic is a book that never stops saying what it has to say”it is specified Italo Calvino in his book “Why read the classics”.

But we agree that if it were just a matter of themes, every book would be a classic. That’s why we have to add the gaze, the author’s perspective and the narrative voice, unique, unrepeatable and recognisable. Phrases like “In a corner of La Mancha whose name I don’t want to remember…” or “All happy families are similar to each other, but every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” already show us that we are faced with Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra and Leon Tolstoyrespectively.

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Every reader knows that “The essential is invisible to the eye” is a phrase of The little PrinceFrom Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, and so on… Other works have left us unforgettable reflections: “What a strange thing, knowledge! Once it enters the mind, it clings to it like ivy to a rock,” we read FrankensteinFrom Mary Shelley.

Twelve classics to read

The classics are not twelve, twenty or one hundred. There are many of them and They do not compete with each other in the hierarchy. They are simply incomparable. We will choose 12 classic novels whose numbering does not represent an evaluation. But more than one will think: why were Tomas Mann, Kafka or Stendhal excluded? Have Flaubert and Balzac gone out of fashion? No. It just happens that space is limited.

Les Misérables, by Victor Hugo.  Photo: Clarin.Les Misérables, by Victor Hugo. Photo: Clarin.

1) Les Misérables, by Victor Hugo. Jean Valjean is the villain who becomes a hero through redemption. This epic and poetic narrative is presented in a historical and social perspective, in Paris in the first half of the 19th century.

Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoevsky.  Photo: Clarin.Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Photo: Clarin.

2) Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoevsky. A reflection of the Russian soul, this 1866 novel is a psychological analysis of the student Raskolnikov, capable of doing evil for humanitarian purposes. By the same author, The Brothers Karamazov is considered a classic.

War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy.  Photo: Clarin.War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy. Photo: Clarin.

3) War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy. It is the story of two families of the Russian nobility (the Bolkonskis and the Rostovs) who serve the author to paint society during the Napoleonic wars (it was published in 1867). A journey from splendor to economic and moral decline.

Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë.  Photo: Clarin.Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë. Photo: Clarin.

4) Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë. The protagonist, orphaned since childhood and dealing with an unloving aunt, is hired by Edward Rochester, a character as passionate as he is content, to serve as his daughter’s governess. A romantic novel from 1847.

The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint Exupéry.  Photo: Clarin.The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint Exupéry. Photo: Clarin.

5) The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint Exupéry. Small book illustrated by the author, from which both the text and the images are transcended. The great themes of humanity seen through the eyes of a child who meditates on friendship. Published in 1943.

Hamlet, by William Shakespeare.  Photo: Clarin.Hamlet, by William Shakespeare. Photo: Clarin.

6) Hamlet, by William Shakespeare. It is a tragedy published in London in 1603, based on the revenge of the Prince of Denmark after the murder of his father and the usurpation of the throne by his uncle Claudius. Hamlet’s internal conflict is the main reason. Another classic by the author: Othello.

Don Quixote of La Mancha, by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra.  Photo: Clarin.Don Quixote of La Mancha, by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. Photo: Clarin.

7) Don Quixote de la Mancha, by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. This novel from the Spanish Golden Age (1605) narrates the misadventures of the noble Alonso Quijano who goes mad due to excessive reading of chivalric novels. It is one of the most important works of universal literature.

Homer's Iliad and Odyssey.  Photo: Clarin.Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. Photo: Clarin.

8) The Iliad and the Odyssey, by Homer. They are two Greek epic poems from the 9th century BC. The Iliad narrates the 10 years of the Trojan War, with Achilles as the protagonist, while in the Odyssey the theme is the return of Ulysses to his native Ithaca, defying God’s plan.

Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens.  Photo: Clarin.Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens. Photo: Clarin.

9) Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens. Pip, the small and illiterate protagonist, is an orphan seeking social advancement in London in 1861, where human relationships are considered in a complex way.

Divine Comedy, by Dante Alighieri.  Photo: Clarin.Divine Comedy, by Dante Alighieri. Photo: Clarin.

10) The Divine Comedy, by Dante Alighieri. A fantastic journey through the circles of Hell and Purgatory accompanied by the poet Virgil, until reaching Paradise led by Beatriz (sublime love). Based on the seven deadly sins committed by historical figures of their time, it was published in Italy in 1314, during the transition from theocracy to the Renaissance.

Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë.  Photo: Clarin.Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë. Photo: Clarin.

11) Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë. Story of the passionate and stormy love between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, in the gloomy surroundings of Yorkshire (United Kingdom, 1847), where the forces of passion, hatred and tragedy unfold.

Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson.  Photo: Clarin.Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson. Photo: Clarin.

12) Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson. The crew of “The Spanish,” Jim Hawkins, Captain Smollet and Long John Silver, embody the dreams of freedom of youth and the moral ambiguity of men in general. (London, 1883).

Source: Clarin

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