Next week the 2012 German Book Prize will be bestowed on the best German novel of the year, so it is a good time to put together a list of ten the greatest German novels. Or, more accurately, the ten greatest German-language novels, since three of the novels are by Austrian novelists (for Kafka, "Austrian" in a geopolitical sense).
This list is based entirely on personal preference, rather than consensus by literary critics. Don't agree with my choices? Have at it in the comments, and please add your alternative titles.
I excluded (reluctantly) the novellas from this list, a literary genre where German writers have surpassed their French, American, Russian and English counterparts in producing masterpieces. But the titles chosen here belong in the canon of great world literature and should be read by all.
So here's the list, in chronological order by date of publication (with apologies to Robert Musil, Hermann Hesse, Max Frisch, and Heinrich Böll):
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Die Leiden des jungen Werthers (1774)
- Theodor Fontane, Frau Jenny Treibel (1892)
- Thomas Mann, Buddenbrooks: Verfall einer Familie (1901)
- Franz Kafka, Der Prozess (1925)
- Alfred Döblin, Berlin Alexanderplatz (1929)
- Joseph Roth, Radetzkymarsch (1932)
- Hermann Broch, Die SchlafwandlerTrilogie (1932)
- Anna Seghers, Transit (1944)
- Wolfgang Koeppen, Tauben im Grass (1951)
- Günter Grass, Die Blechtrommel (1959)