Leo Tolstoy, the aristocrat turned anarchist, was born Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy and is considered to be one of the greatest writers in the world. Novels, such as the tragic but brilliant Anna Karenina, are sweeping. Anna Karenina is a lengthy story, almost 900 pages long, of a woman, unhappily married, in 19th century Russia. Later in his career, Tolstoy rejected Anna Karenina, referring to it as an abomination that no longer existed for him; however, his later works are also highly celebrated – works like The Death of Ivan Ilyich. His novel War and Peace was amazingly ambitious in both its scope and scale and complex in its use of different narrative voices.
Bertolt Brecht was a German playwright and poet and has been widely translated. However, his work is considered inaccessible due to his complex theories about theater and his emphasis on politics. Many of his plays were co-written with Margarete Steffin, and these have been enduring; of particular note is Mother Courage, which was an anti-war political drama, often known as one of the greatest 20th-century plays.
Italo Calvino is one of the most translated Italian writers; famous for his range: he wrote essays, short stories, novellas, novels, and he compiled Italian folktales – drawn from various Italian dialects. His repertoire ranges from Cosmicomics, a collection of science-fiction short stories, to Invisible Cities, a mix of history and fantasy whereby traveler Marco Polo converses with Mongol ruler Kublai Khan.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Many people have described the writing of Gabriel Garcia Marquez as magic. Marquez died in 2014 when obituaries referred to him as a magician, a conjurer of literary magic, one who was capable of producing magical logic. His translated works, such as Love in the Time of Cholera, Chronicle of a Death Foretold, and One Hundred Years of Solitude, were loved by mass readers and praised by critics.
Gunter Grass’s first novel titled The Tin Drum is his most celebrated work: published in 1959, this novel was seen to be crucial in the development of the writing style known as magic realism. The Tin Drum was the first in a book series for which Grass won the Nobel Prize in 1992. The Nobel committee referred to his works as ‘frolicsome black fables, portraying the forgotten face of history.' In 2006 Grass’s memoir was released, detailing his teenage years spent in the service of the Nazi secret police. Even though his memoir was scarring, the actual account has been praised for its skillful use of memory in literature writing.
Naguib Mahfouz was a prolific writer: he completed 35 novels, several collections of essays and short stories, and many film scripts. Possibly the crowning glory of his literary career would be the formidable Cairo Trilogy – three books chronicling the three generations of an Egyptian family ruled by a patriarch. In 1988 Mahfouz won the Nobel Prize, making him not only a widely translated author but also one of the first Arabic novelists to achieve international recognition.