How do Britain's writers today measure up to the past greats? Is Orwell better than Barnes, is Tolkien's fantasy world more alluring than Rowling's? Who are our best authors and poets of the past half-century? We in Books put our heads together and came up with a list of more than 100 names, based on style, influence, longevity and sales. We considered novelists, poets, writers of nonfiction - those whose words are primarily meant to be read rather than spoken.
So no Pinter, Stoppard or Lennon-McCartney. And they had to have produced their most enduring works after 1945. So no Graham Greene (right) as Brighton Rock came out in 1938, or Evelyn Waugh (Scoop, also 1938). Strong coffee was ordered and thinking caps donned as we cut it to 50. In the end the Literary Editor's decision was final. But we know you'll disagree, so have your say at timesonline.co.uk/bookstop50
46. Bruce Chatwin
When a journalist abruptly informs his editor "Have gone to Patagonia", either he will never be heard of again or he will return with something worth writing about.
Bruce Chatwin, born in Sheffield in 1940, went to South America in 1974 and three years later published In Patagonia, which has become an enduring cult classic of travel literature. It was later claimed that in this and other of his works presented as travel books,such as The Viceroy of Ouidah (1980), and The Songlines (1987), being true to fact, was not Chatwin's primary strength or interest. He openly acknowledged that "the fictional process has been at work". His novels, like his nonfiction and essays, are so infused with the transforming power of the storyteller's art that they become fantastical, just as the writer became his own creation. He died in 1989 of an Aids-related disease, claiming to the last that it was a rare infection picked up on his travels.
One to read: On the Black Hill (1982)
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