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World Literature 500

By: Kim Packard

Created November 2009

“Film Adaptation”

Books can lead to films or vice versa… Spark Notes: Literature

Sometimes a film combines two books such as in Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass or reinterpret a work completely as in Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood based on MacBeth (which is a script and to be adapted freely to the theater to begin with), which makes the comparison between a book and a film more involved than it seems initially. And Harry Potter fans might complain about details that were lost or changed and still be more than satisfied with the visual effects. In the end, comparing movies and books seems like a futile activity since the pleasure of reading is in the choice of words and literary style (e.g. description of the fog in Dickens’s Bleak House’s opening chapter) which cannot be entirely substituted by an image in a film while the pleasure of film has to do with how well imagination is visualized. Of course, a comparison can be made on how the suspense or interest is maintained throughout the book or the film, the degree of overall satisfaction derived from reading or viewing the work, etc. I can also see why casting a certain actor in the role of a protagonist could turn a flat character in the book more rounded in a film. So, in this light, I’m wondering if The Stranger (1967) by Luchino Visconti starring Marcello Mastroianni and Anna Karina as Meursault and Marie might not be better (at least in parts) than the short novel by by Camus about a taciturn protagonist.

The editors of The Norwegian Book Club asked 100 authors to nominate ten books that, in their opinion, are the ten best and most central works in world literature, books that have had a decisive impact on the cultural history of the world and also left an individual mark on the authors own thinking and imagination. John Irving, Salman Rushdie, John le Carré, Nadine Gordimer, Milan Kundera, Christa Wolf, Carlos Fuentes, V.S. Naipaul, Paul Auster, A.S. Byatt, Ben Okri, Orhan Pamuk, Fay Weldon, Wole Soyinka, Bei Dao, Nawal El Saadawi, Yvonne Vera, Astrid Lindgren, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Norman Mailer… – and 80 other prominent authors participated. Here’s the list of 100 titles that gathered most votes .

Annenberg Learner- World Literature

Work in progress: A List, based on 500 original works of fiction…

American

01 The Emperor Jones (1920, play) Eugene O’Neill
04 The Grapes of Wrath (1939, novel) John Steinbeck
08 Driving Miss Daisy (1987, play) Alfred Fox Uhry
11 Gone with the Wind (1936, novel) Margaret Mitchell
12 Fahrenheit 451 (1953, novel) Ray Radbury
16 One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1962, novel) Ken Kesey
18 The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900, novel) Frank L. Baum
22 Lolita (1955, novel) Vladimir Nabokov
23 The Fall of the House of Usher (1839, short story) Edgar Allan Poe
24 The Devil and Daniel Webster (1937, short story) Steven Vincent Benét
48
52
63
77
78
79
80
82
84 The Unexpected (?, short story) Jack London
87
88
89
90
98
103 The Moon of the Caribees, In The Zone, Bound East for Cardiff, and The Long Voyage Home from the Glencairn PLays (1914-1918) Eugene O’Neill
104
113
115
124
125
126
127
129
130
131
132
133
137
150
152
153
160
162
163
164
165
166
173 The Pearl (1947, John Steinbeck)
213 Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884/1885, novel) Mark Twain
217 The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876, novel) and other stories by Mark Twain
230 Beloved (1987, novel) Toni Morrison
231 Arsenic and Old Lace (1939, play) Joseph Kesselring
242 “Long Twilight” based on a short story by Shirley Jackson
251 The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven (1993, short stories) Sherman Alexie
252 Dodsworth (1929, novel) Sinclair Lewis
260 The Hamlet (1940, novel) William Faulkner
261 “Mrs. Bridge” and “Mr. Bridge” (1959, 1969 novels) Evan S. Connell
262 The Glass Menagerie (1944, play) Tennessee Williams
268
269
270
279
283
288
302
303
304
306
316
318
322
323
324
331 Tortilla Flat (1935, novel) John Steinbeck
335 short stories by William Sydney Porter
338 Agnes of God (play, 1982) John Pielmeier
340
341
342 The Curse of Capistrano (novel, 1919 later published as The Mark of Zorro in 1924) Johnston McCulley
346 The Gentleman’s Agreement (novel, 1947) Laura Z. Hobson
355
358
359
360

Argentinian

159 ""Las babas del diablo" or The Devil’s Drool (1959, Julio Cortázar)
228 Theme of the Traitor and the Hero (short story, 1944) Jorge Luis Borges

Australian

128 Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence (1996, biography) Doris Pilkington

Austrian

203 The Confusion of Young Törless (1906, novel) Robert Musil

Belgian

350

British

02 Tess of the d’Urbervilles: A Pure Woman Faithfully Presented (1891, novel) Thomas Hardy
03 Oliver Twist; or, The Parish Boy’s Progress (1838, novel) Charles Dickens
05 Romeo and Juliet (1591-1595, play) William Shakespeare
07 Empire of the Sun (1984, novel) James Graham Ballard
10 The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (1954, novel Volume II) J.R.R. Tolkien
14 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (1954, novel Volume III) J.R.R.Tolkien
15 The River (1946, novel) Rumer Godden
20 Howard’s End (1910, novel) E.M. Forster
25/257 Wuthering Heights (1847, novel) Emily Brönte
29 Othello, the Moor of Venice (ca. 1603, play) William Shakespeare
30 Henry V (ca. 1599, play) William Shakespeare
32
34
36
37
40
41
42
44
45 King Lear (1603/1606, play) William Shakespeare)
50
53
54
55
56
61
62
64
66
70
76
81
83
91
93
94
95
97
100 A Room with a View (1908, novel) E. M. Forster
105
110
111
133
134
172 Jane Eyre (1847) Charlotte Brönte
182 Pride and Prejudice (1796) Jane Austen
184 Wuthering Heights (1847) Emily Brönte
215 Robinson Crusoe (1719) Daniel Defoe
236 An Outcast of the Islands (1896, novel) Joseph Conrad
237 A Little Princess (1904, novel) Frances Hodgson Burnett
241 The End of the Affair (1951, novel) Graham Greene
245 The Portrait of a Lady (1881, novel) Henry James
246 Washington Square (1880, novel) Henry James
247 Daisy Miller (1878, novella) Henry James
248 The Golden Bowl (1904, novel) Henry James
254 The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961, novel) Muriel Spark
258 The Wrong Box (1889, novel) Robert Louis Stevenson and Lloyd Osbourne
263 A Christmas Carol (1843, novella) Charles Dickens
264 The Loved One: An Anglo-American Tragedy (1948, novel) Evelyn Waugh
266 Brideshead Revisited, The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder (1945, novel) Evelyn Waugh
267
281
282
290
291
292
293
296
299
300
301
307
311
319
327
329
330 Ratman’s Notebooks (novel, 1968) Stephen Gilbert
332 The Lord of the Flies (novel, 1954) William Golding (1983 Nobel-prize laureate)
349
356
365 Green Mansions (novel, 1904) William Henry Hudson
411 Watership Down

Canadian

259 A Jest of God (1966, novel) Margaret Laurenson
269
280
337 The Handmaid’s Tale (novel, 1985) Margaret Atwood
352

Chinese/Taiwanese

60 Wives and Concubines (1990, novel) Su Tong
141 To Live (1993, novel) Yu Hua
142 The Wan Family’s Lawsuit (?, novella) Chen Yuanbin
143 Red Sorghum (1987, novel) Mo Yan
144 Farewell My Concubine (1993, novel) Lillian Lee
199 The New Year Sacrifice (1924, short story) Lu Xun

Colombian
239 Chronicle of a Death Foretold (1981, novella) Gabriel Garcia Márquez
336 No One Writes to the Colonel (novella, 1961) Gabriel Garcia Márquez

Czech

227 based on a story by Karel Capek
229 Metamorphosis (1915, novella) Franz Kafka
266 The Joke (1966, novel) Milan Kundera
363 based on a work by Karel Jaromir Erben (1853, poem)

Danish

118
119
168 Babette’s Feast Karen Blixen

Dutch

249 Karakter (1938, novel) Ferdinand Bordewijk
271/345 The Diary of a Young Girl

Egyptian

200 Midaq Alley (1947, novel) Naguib Mahfouz
201 Beginning and the End Nobel Prize, novel) Naguib Mahfouz
233 Midaq Alley (1947, novel) Naguib Mahfouz
276 Nightingale’s Prayer /Doa al karawan دعاء الكروان Henry Barakat

French

06 Diary of a Country Priest/ Journal d’un curé de campagne (1951, novel) Georges Bernanos
17 Beauty and the Beast/ La Belle et la bête (1740, fairy tale) Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve
26 Zazie in the Metro/ Zazie dans le metro (1959, novel) Raymond Queneau
27 Time Regained/ Le Temps retrouvé (1927, novel) Marcel Proust
117/275 The Stranger/ L’Étranger (1942, novel) Albert Camus
169 Jules and Jim Henri-Pierre Roché
177 Les parents terribles (1938) Jean Cocteau
178 Thomas, l’imposteur (1923) Jean Cocteau
183 La Duchesse de Langeais (1834, novel) Honoré de Balzac
185 The Myth of Sisyphus (1942) Albert Camus
204 L’Argent (1890, novel) Emile Zola
209 “La première education sentimentale” or “Sentimental Education” (1845, novel) Gustave Flaubert
234
235
240 In Search of Lost Time (novel, 1913-1927) Marcel Proust
244
250 La Réligieuse/The Nun (novel,18th century) Denis Diderot
253
265 Moderato Cantabile (1958, novel) Marguerite Duras
284
285
287
294
309
314
317
328
353
354
361
366 Ariane by Claude Anet

German

09 Death in Venice/Der Tod in Venetig (1912, novella) Thomas Mann
19 The Tin Drum/ Die Blechtrommel (1959, novel) Günter Grass
159 “Nowhere in Africa” (novel, 1998) Stefanie Zweig
201 A mime adaptation of a story by Thomas Mann
272
273
274
278 Siddhartha (1951, novel) Herman Hesse
297
325

Greek

65 Oedipus the King/ Oedipus Rex (ca. 429 BCE, play) Sophocles
191/192 Medea (431 BCE, play) Euripides
295

Hungarian
243 “The House with the Red Light” (short story) Sándor Hunyady

Indian

145/146/147 Pather Panchali and its sequel Aparajito (1929, novel) Bibhutbhushan Bandopadhyay
167
277 Guide R.K. Narayan

Iranian
157

Irish

36 The Dead (1914, short story) James Joyce
522 At Swim-Two-Birds (1939, novel) Brian O’Nolan
523 The Butcher Boy (1992, novel) Patrick McCabe

Israeli

343 Infiltration (novel, 1986), previously entitled Heart Murmur, Am Oved, by Yehoshua Kenaz

Italian

120 Bicycle Thieves/ Ladri di biciclette (1946, novel) Luigi Bartolini
186
310
320
339 La Morte in Vacanza (play, 1924) Alberto Casella

Japanese

13 Kwaidan, Stories and Studies of Strange Things (1903, collection of Japanese ghost stories) Lafcadio Hearn
21 Sansho the Bailiff/ Sansho dayuu (1915, short story) Mori Ogai
71
72
73
74 Tales of Moonlight and Rain/ Ugetsu Monogatari (1776, collection of stories adapted from Chinese ghost stories) Ueda Akinari
75
96
116
136
155 Miyamoto Musashi (1935) Yoshikawa Eiji
175 Patriotism (1966) Mishima Yukio
211 Maborosi no Hikiari Miyamoto Teru
218 I am a Cat (190-1906) Natsume Soseki
219 Temple of the Golden Pavilion (1959) Mishima Yukio
220
221
222
223
224
225
255
298
305
313
321
348

Mexican

181 Pedro Paramo (1955, Juan Rulfo)
362 based on a novel by Octavio Paz

Norwegian

138 Hunger (1890, novel) Knut Hamsun
170/171: A Doll’s House Henrik Ibsen

Persian Empire

207 One Thousand and One Nights
215

Polish
210 Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass (novel, 1937) Bruno Schulz
289
343 Śmierć Miasta (Death of a City) republished, first in German as Das wunderbare Überleben (The miraculous survival) in 1998 and then in English as The Pianist in 1999 by Wladyslaw Szpilman

Portuguese
364 based on a novel by Camilo Castelo Branco (novel, 1862)

Romanian
429 Youth without Youth (novella, 1976) Mircea Eliade
430 based on a book by Agarbiceanu
431 The Forest of the Hanged (novel, 1922) Liviu Rebreanu

Russian

22 Lolita (1955, novel) Vladimir Nabokov
38 White Nights (1848, short story) Fyodor Dostoevsky
51
114
176 The Nose (1835, Nikolai Gogol)
187
188
189
190
205/206 Anna Karenina (1873-1877, novel) Leo Tolstoy
238
256
308
312
333
334 A Love Story (novel, 1927) Ivan Shmelyov
347 Tevye’s Daughters (novel, 1949) Sholem Aleichem
351

Senegalese

139 Impotence/ Xala (1973, novel) Ousmane Sembène
140 The Money Order/ Mandabi (1987, novella) Ousmane Sembène

Spanish

174 Nazarin (1895) Benito Pérez Galdós)
212 Tristana (1892) Benito Pérez Galdós)
216/226/232 Don Quixote (1605, 1615) Miguel de Cervantes
315
326
357

Swedish

28 Miss Julie/ Fröken Julie (1888, play) August Strindberg

Swiss

286

Link to Mubi thread- Movies that are better than the books they’re based on

 

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Displaying 4 of 26 wall posts.
Picture of răpciune

răpciune

30Jun11

Lang's Scarlet Street is based on "La Chienne" (The Bitch) by Georges de La Fouchardière, a book that also gave birth to Renoir's La Chienne. Do you have Youth without Youth by Coppola, based on Eliade's books in the list? It is far from providing a decent insight in Eliade's life/work (that was my first impression of the movie), but that is beside the point. Peter Delpeut's Forbidden Quest is based on Gordon Pym by Poe, and on elements from Eliot's The Waste Land, though it is not an adaptation as such, more like a reinterpretation. And i STRONGLY recommend La moara cu noroc, based on a classical Romanian work, directed by Dan Pita and Mircea Veroiu, but that is not on mubi, unfortunately.

Kim Packard likes this

  • Picture of răpciune

    răpciune

    30Jun11

    sorry, i wrote this before i had my coffee. La moara cu noroc was directed by Victor Iliu. Pita & Veroiu directed Nunta de piatra (Stone Wedding), one of its halves is also based on a book by Agarbiceanu. Finally, another Romanian film based on a book: Padurea Spanzuratilor by Liviu Ciulei.

Picture of Sancar Seckiner

Sancar Seckiner

17Jun11

Good work but too long. Short lists get better attention.

Kim Packard likes this

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  • Picture of Kim Packard

    Kim Packard

    18Nov12

    I'm going to cut if off at 500 and start weeding out some unworthy ones at that point and perhaps also adding notable ones, so it'll stay at around 500.

Picture of Francesca Perry Carboni

Francesca Perry Carboni

29Dec10

Great list, I'm an avid reader and always fascinated by film adaptations. In fact this list was also really informative as I had no idea that some of my favourite films here - To Live, Red Cliff and Farewell My Concubine - were actually books, so thanks for that. I'd be hard pushed to list my favourite adaptations but right up there is Sense and Sensibility which almost improved on the book ( If that isn't heresy) Death in Venice, The House of Mirth and....I won't go on. Thanks again.

Kim Packard likes this

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manije mirdamad

19Dec10

love this .... more Biographies and history and less violence and anger please. we have to deal with enough of that in the world we live in. I also would love to see . films on an about different cultures and look at beautiful sceneries of the planet. very happy about this site. manije

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