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20th century Literature Worth Reading: 3 Men: Alain-Fournier, Maugham and Dreiser

Updated on October 9, 2016

The Lost Estate...Alain-Fournier

The Lost Estate is the translated American title of Alain-Fournier's pre WWi book. We always lose something in translation when we must accept a translators choices, but this is a pretty well done one. Much like the Algerian book by Albert Camus: The Stranger we must accept the translated words, or seek the French edition, provided we speak French!

This story came to me by way of investigation. As a World Literature Professor, I am always seeking new and good works to introduce to my students each term. I also am continuing my studies in literature (a lifelong pursuit) and was looking for a work I had not yet heard about in the canon.

This work is quite well known in Europe and was said to have possibly influenced The Great Gatsby, by F Scott Fitzgerald. It is a promising read thus far and fulfills my thirst for new material to ponder and compare, and critique.

We lost so many to this generation, aptly deemed The Lost Generation, for a reason. War and misery, coupled with the insane tragedy of brutal air bombs and trench warfare. I am not sure Archduke Philip Ferdinand would have sought the brutality of the men involved as retribution for his death. A good choice to read and add to your collection of must reads.

Of Human Bondage- Maugham

Maugham was a British author, who aptly penned this fantastic work in the early part of the 20th century. Maugham, best known for the story The Razors Edge, is a brilliant writer who captures the tragic life of the protagonist in the tale and his disability and relationship with a woman who treats him poorly throughout the book.

I still recommend this story to the uninitiated in Maugham's work because it is a classic, Bildungsroman, or coming of age tale and is riveting in its rendition.

Maugham has written some other works worth reading as well, including a Christmas story and some set in the "orientalist" point of view.


Alain-Fournier

W Somerset Maugham

Thedrore Dreiser: An American Tragedy

No, Dreiser is not an American Tragedy, but this is the story of which he writes, based upon an event during his lifetime. Known best for his story Sister Carrie, Dreiser chronicles the treatment of women in his time and the men who take advantage of them. One might believe Dreiser is a misogynist, as most of his stories show men taking advantage of women, but we are also quick to forget that this is the way women were perceived for more years in history than not. The author shows many of the motivations of his characters in bedding the women in their lives and how they use them throughout the story.

An American Tragedy is an crime novel of the early 20th century and combines the machinations of the woman in the story and the way women manipulate men to get what they want...or not. Dreiser based this tale on an actual case: Dreiser based the book on a notorious criminal case. On July 11, 1906, resort owners found an overturned boat and the body of a 20-year-old woman and Chester Gillette who claimed the death was a suicide. Gillette was executed by electric chair in 1908 after his trial drew international attention. Dreiser was fascinated by the love letters presented in court during the trial and saved the news clippings for a few years before writing this story using the CG initials as his main male characters.

A great read and worth the many pages of descriptive writing that authors used before we had TV and radio and other technology to define our impressions of people, places and ideas.

Theodore Dreiser

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