Prostitutes, Miners, Wild Sheep Chases & Burmese Death Camps: Three of My Favourite Authors

in #yourtop38 months ago (edited)


Sometimes these challenges on Steem are just downright cruel. How could I possibly choose my top three authors out of all the authors I have loved? Should it be Steinbeck because of his moving 'To a God Unknown'? Or DH Lawrence's stunning writing? The quirkiness of Czech writer Milan Kundera and his beautiful book 'The Unbearable Lightness of Being'? Portuguese writer Jose Saramego? And goodness - how could I go past Cormac Maccarthy, with each word of 'The Road' ripping my heart from my chest, let alone 'All the Pretty Horses'? I mean, read this passage from 'The
Road' and tell me it doesn't move you - it moves me again as I read it, especially as the pall of the Australian bushfires hovers on the horizon and seeps into my lungs:

“He walked out in the gray light and stood and he saw for a brief moment the absolute truth of the world. The cold relentless circling of the intestate earth. Darkness implacable. The blind dogs of the sun in their running. The crushing black vacuum of the universe. And somewhere two hunted animals trembling like ground-foxes in their cover. Borrowed time and borrowed world and borrowed eyes with which to sorrow it.”

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'Borrowed time and borrowed world and borrowed eyes with which to sorrow it' is one of my favourite lines in literature. Set in a post apocalyptic world, each line begs to be read aloud - pure poetry. He sings a rhythm in his sentences that is unparelleled for me, except maybe Australian writer David Malouf who I also adore. Do I choose him? What about Chris Wolmsley's novel 'Bereft', an Australian gothic set during the Spanish flu around WW1? What about Richard McFarlane, whose factual book interweaves history, literature, poetry, philosophy and personal observations as he explores the underlands of our world from caves to nuclear bunkers? Or Gabriel Garcia Marquez, which I devoured in my late teens, and still believe 100 Years of Solitude is the one of the best novels of all time?

Damn you, @yourtop3, you are making me choose between my babies. Paralysed by choice, I decided to choose between the authors I just happened to have quite a few of on my bookshelf, proud rows that declare: 'Hey, you are definitely a FAVOURITE!'. So, here tis - top 3 of my favourite authors (today!).

Haruki Murakami


I honestly cannot explain why I like Murakami. Dad adores him too, but like me, agrees we can't put our finger on why. I'm almost exhausted by reading him, and I haven't read his last two, but those early ones like The Wind Up Bird Chronicle and Norwegian Wood, and my favourite 'A Wild Sheep Chase'. His writing is whimsical and magic realist, and explore more metaphysical, unconscious realms, the memories of people and the things they search for. Readers of Murakami are never quite sure if they're reading about the physical world or the metaphysical, the labrinthine corridors of the mind as human beings figure out who they are and what makes them.

“Is it possible, in the final analysis, for one human being to achieve perfect understanding of another? We can invest enormous time and energy in serious efforts to know another person, but in the end, how close can we come to that person’s essence? We convince ourselves that we know the other person well, but do we really know anything important about anyone?” - The Wind Up Bird Chronicle

Richard Flanagan


Richard Flanagan is an Australian writer. I distinctively recall being in my mid 20's and reading 'Death of a River Guide' and turning the last page, hugging the book to my chest, closing my eyes and thinking: 'This is why I read'. 'Death of a River Guide' is about a river guide in Tasmania who is trapped under a waterfall, and is drowning. In those last minutes of his life, he recalls his personal and family histories:

Am I to live? Is my life to be saved? Am I finally to be made visible? Other people who nearly die go down a tunnel and see a great light at the end. But all I have seen are people, the whole lot of them, swirling, dirty, smelly, objectionable and ultimately lovable people, and, I think, if it is to be my misfortune to return into the lamentable physical vessel that has been my body, it is them – these people in the kitchens and office blocks and suburbs and pink leisure suits – that I must make my peace with.

I really loved his more recent 'Narrow Road to the Deep North' as it tells a story that most Australians recognise as part of our identity narrative - the Japanese slave labour camp on the Burma death railway. In fact, it was inspired by his own father's experiences working on this notorious railway where men starved and died as they hacked through the jungle to build the railway between Bangkok and Rangoon. At the novel's core is one day in this camp in 1943, but it moves through various narrative perspectives, including a Japanese prison guard, and shifts in time. It is grim, but beautiful - a novel about loss and grief, violence and war, and the horrors from our darkest annuls of history.

"For an instant, he thought he grasped the truth of a terrifying world in which one could not escape horror, in which violence was eternal, the great and only verity, greater than the civilizations it created, greater than any god man worshipped.”

Whilst it may have mixed reviews, this is usual of a book than won the Man Booker Prize. I find myself adoring Flanagan as he captures an Australia that threads through my own identity, and I appreciate this in a plethora of world literature that often garners far more attention than the writers of my own sunburnt land.

Emile Zola

We have a top shelf for Zola. A French writer, he wrote an entire cycle of novels about France in the late 1880's - twenty one of them. When I lived in the UK, we used to scour the bookshops and charity shops to collect the entire 21, although we only ever got 12. I love these copies as they remind me of the early days of our relationship and beginning to make a bookshelf together.

My favourite of his books, and in fact the one I often recommend to people to read from my top 50 books of all time, is Germinal. It is a brutal and harsh story of a coalminers' strike in northern France in the 1860s. He captures the poverty and the terrible lives of the miners so well. Their conditions worsen until Etienne, the political idealist of the novel, becomes the leader of the resistance against the oppression they suffer until eventually he and his girlfriend Catherine are entrapped within the sabotaged mine. These passages are some of the most memorable I have read in any book and still stay with me to this day.

Despite this struggle, the novel ends on a note of hope - the 'germinal' seed that brings life:

“And still, again and again, even more distinctly than before, as if they had been working their way closer to the surface, the comrades tapped and tapped. Beneath the blazing rays of the sun, on this morning when the world seemed young, such was the stirring which the land carried in its womb. New men were starting into life, a black army of vengeance slowly germinating in the furrows, growing for the harvests of the century to come; and soon this germination would tear the earth apart.”


My husband's favourite, however, is Nana, Nana tells the story of Nana Coupeau's rise from streetwalker to high-class prostitute during the last three years of the French Second Empire.

"She alone was left standing, amid the accumulated riches of her mansion, while a host of men lay stricken at her feet. Like those monsters of ancient times whose fearful domains were covered with skeletons, she rested her feet on human skulls and was surrounded by catastrophes...The fly that had come from the dungheap of the slums, carrying the ferment of social decay, had poisoned all these men simply by alighting on them. It was fitting and just. She had avenged the beggars and outcasts of her world. And while, as it were, her sex rose in a halo of glory and blazed down on her prostrate victims like a rising sun shining down on a field of carnage, she remained as unconscious of her actions as a splendid animal, ignorant of the havoc she had wreaked, and as good-natured as ever."

I love the illustrated plates in this old copy we have. I wish books still had such illustrations - they really lend a kind of magic to the pages we read. The ones in Nana are particularly delightful - slightly debaucherous, matching the content - a reason why the book was not always well received, especially in polite society!


What are your top three authors?

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What an interesting selection. I suspect that mine is also going to be a "what's-doing-it-for-me-now "selection.

Yes, so hard! I have so many that I could have named!

My post is a little like Topsy...not sure if/whether I should pare it down...

Wow! This is so beautifully written, inspired by your love of reading. I agree with you that drilling down to just three favorite authors is difficult.

I really can't remember if I've read any of Zola's work, but I did see the old movie, *The Life of Emile Zola" back in the 70s, when it was on the TV late movie one evening. I do remember being very inspired by the account of his life and did some studying about him at the time.

Thank you for sharing such a wonderful, informative post!

Thanks so much! I definitely recommend Germinal. I haven't seen that doco but Zola was indeed fascinating and it's interesting that whilst many people I know have heard of the Russian greats like Tolstoy or Dostoyesky, they haven't heard of Zola.

Thanks for these awesome suggestions for our contest this month! We've given you an upvote and logged your nominations, ready for the dpoll - keep an eye on our blog for the dpoll post!

Set your post payout to 50/50. You keep the SP and then transfer the STEEM and/or SBD (whichever is paid out at the time) to @yourtop3 with a link to your blog post entry in the transfer memo. This is the minimum entry fee, but you can add as much as you like to it! The more you add, the more you can win.There is no maximum entry fee.

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What a fantastic first entry into the @yourtop3 contest, @riverflows. Beautifully written and full of loving detail. This is exactly what we are looking for.

My wife raves about Narrow Road to the Deep North. We briefly lived in Thailand for a couple of years and were lucky enough to visit Hellfire Pass and The river Quai bridge.

We are excited to have you join. Enjoy and best of luck with the contest.


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Thanks! I am.excited to take part and glad I stumbled on it on first one of the year! Will promote as much as able.

The Bridge Across the River Kwai is such a great old war movies. Top 3 War Movies? Now there's a thought!

Hey @riverflows!

It’s Q here, I see that your awesome Top 3 entry post has reached 7 days old. Please remember to confirm your entry into the contest by sending half of your payout (STEEM and/or SBD) to the @yourtop3 account as your minimum entry fee.

Not sure how to find your post payout? Look in your Steem Wallet under Author Rewards to find the exact payout for your post. In the example below you would send the 0.014 SBD and 6.587 STEEM over to the @yourtop3 account as your entry fee. We’ll take it from there and convert all of the prize pool to SBD for easy prize distribution at the end of the month!


But don’t forget that you can send us as much as you like for a chance to win a greater share of the prize pool. There is NO MAXIMUM! Also, send us your post URL in the memo.

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask. The Top 3 Panel would be more than happy to assist.

Thanks for entering and good luck.

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I read the title of this post and - for a brief moment - thought you were referring to other people's posts, mine included ( as I wrote about escaping sheep in my last two posts ) haha

I myself wouldn't know where to start. I have read and still am reading so very much that I forgot the names of many writers that I loved. Murakami would definitely be high on my list though. I'm gonna add some other titles that you mentioned to my reading list. The work of Richard Flanagan sounds very interesting.


Oh I have missed your sheepish posts (haha) ... Flanagan is great.

I forgot to mention that my grandfather ( mom's dad ), who lived from 1914-1996, was a prisoner of the Japanese and worked on the Burma railway. He hardly ever talked about this time in his life and, unfortunately, I was only 14 when he passed away and not really interested in history ( yet ).

Did I ever tell you my mom lived in Australia from her third till her eight or so ( 1958 to 62, I believe )? My grandmother had a Super 8 camera at the time and I have color footage of my mom as a little girl in Australia.

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An awesome first post to enter the top 3 contest with - details, stories, connection to the topic (i.e. authors), you nailed it!

Thanks for going in to the details as now I have a few more books to read and get stuck in to (if I can find an additional 10 hours in the day) - good luck for the contest and you joined at the right time as we start our new leagues this month so spread the word (there's a referral bonus if you can get some of your steem friends to enter as well) :D

Referring everyone! Oh time to read... now there's a dream!!! I do need a new pile. I think you'd like Germinal as of course France's history entwined with England's and you had your own miners strikes in following century.


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Oh my goodness am I glad you stumbled upon our little contest this round! It was definitely meant to be. You've made me realize how small of a literary sphere I have been surviving in. I certainly have a lot of catching up to do, as you have made me yearn to learn more about each of these authors! First thing on Monday I need to update my library card and start exploring what I can find there...

I think Narrow Road to The Deep North would be a perfect start for you, looking at your own selection. It's a great STORY, as well as well written.

Have an !BEER to sip on while you read.

Woah these are some deep books and authors! Im glad you have shared them with us.

What like particularly about this months contest, like the others but this one even more, is we are given insight about the author and the books they write. It's like a two in one preview and it builds excitement for the next book to be read. Thank you for giving such a great entry to the contest. Well done!

Thanks a ton xx

 8 months ago Reveal Comment