The Best English-Language Fiction of the Twentieth Century
A Composite List and Ranking
by Brian Kunde


<- Conrad, Joseph, 1857-1924.
         Birth name: Józef Teodor Nalecz Konrad Korzeniowski. Polish mariner and naturalized English novelist born in Berdyczów, Russian Poland (now in the Ukraine). English, the language of his literary works, was actually his third language, his first two being Polish and French. Best known for his novels of the colonized Third World at the height of European imperialism. Collaborated with Ford Madox Ford on a number of minor works.
  • <- Heart of Darkness. 1902.
             The tale of a voyage up the Congo River by Marlow, the narrator, to investigate the activities of the Belgian ivory trader Kurtz. The darkness is on many levels, not least of which is the corruption inherant in the colonial project itself. The character of Marlow recurs in other works, notably Lord Jim (1900). Adapted to television in 1993; was also the inspiration for the film Apocalypse Now (1979).
  • <- Lord Jim. 1900.
             The story of Jim, a merchant seaman, and his efforts to redeem himself in the wake of a dishonorable act. The narrative is pieced together by Marlow, who befriends and aids him. A study in the sometimes disastrous conflicts between idealism and reality. Adapted to film in 1925 and 1965.
  • <- Nostromo. 1904.
             A narrative of corruption amid revolutionary turmoil in the imaginary country of Costaguana. Seńor Gould, an English expatriot, entrusts his jeopardized fortune to Giambattista Fidanza, or Nostromo, with ill consequences to all concerned. Adapted to film in 1926 (as "The Silver Treasure") and television in 1997.
  • <- The Secret Agent. 1907.
             Set in England; an ironic and ultimately tragic story in which Verloc, a supposed anarchist actually working for the police, engineers a bombing plot in an attempt to discredit the anarchists. Adapted to film in 1936 (as "Sabotage") and 1996, and television in 1967, 1981 (as "L'Agent Secret") and 1992.

Posted Jul. 25, 2005, and last updated May 14, 2013.
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Published by Fleabonnet Press.
The source list data is public domain.
Additional material © 1999-2013 by Brian Kunde.