Angela Carter, 1940 - 1992
Little Known Novelists of the 20th Century
The field of popular literature is a strange one.
Authors who write amazingly well and deserve acclaim for their
literary works often go unnoticed by the public, while certain
authors with less technical skill can shoot to fame almost
immediately. This can happen when a particular novel is well
promoted and embraced by a publishing house, or by someone famous.
For example, the authors selected by Oprah Winfrey on her well known
American television talk show became immediately well-known in
America, the UK, and other foreign countries. These books shot to
fame due to her celebrity status and promotion. Were these authors
she selected truly worthy of such international acclaim? The
question is debatable.
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What happens to the books and authors who have no such celebrity or
powerful publisher backing and promoting them? They often slip
through the cracks and never become known to the public on a large
scale. This is an unfortunate tragedy, since many of these authors
have written amazing masterpieces which deserve better publicity and
to be read by a wider audience.
An amazingly skilled author from the 20th century who never had his
books promoted on an international scale is Arthur Koestler, who was
born in Budapest in 1905. He was the author of "Darkness at Noon,"
which was first published in 1940. It is a masterpiece, a classic
novel which exposes the insanity and madness behind Stalin's purges
of Russia under the Bolsheviks. It is a grim look at the madness
behind torture, betrayal, and political intrigue. Amazingly, many
people have never read this classic. It deserves to be read by a
Another author who is often overlooked and neglected in the annals
of 20th century writing is Vikram Seth. He was born in Calcutta,
India, in the 1950s. He has never achieved such levels of fame as
his countryman Salman Rushdie, who shot to political fame when he
became the center of a religious controversy. Vikram Seth never
garnered as much publicity as Rushdie, but is an equally talented
Indian author. His 1989 novel, "The Golden Gate," which is set in
California, is a masterwork. It is a verse-inspired novel, at once
charming, magical, and lyrically written in a unique style of prose.
Alejo Carpentier, a Cuban novelist, was born in 1904. In the 1950s,
he helped create and pioneer the field of writing called "magical
realism." This would be taken up by authors like Isabel Allende and
Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Carpentier wrote "The Lost Steps" in 1953.
It's a winding, twisted tale of a disillusioned journalist who takes
a journey into the wilds of South America. The style of writing, the
Latin-American flavour of the novel, and the magical backdrop are
startling. Sadly, Carpentier never achieved the same levels of fame
as Allende or Garcia Marquez, but this is not reflective of his
fantastic writing ability.
Pursuing the writing of lesser known 20th century novelists is
immensely rewarding; many novels without popular acclaim are
untouched gems, masterpieces waiting for discovery.