According to a new survey, Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude is the most influential novel of the past twenty-five years. Really?
I read this probably in about 1982 and it blew me away, particularly the last three pages, which I remember I had to read while pacing around the room because I was so excited. Even now, I would probably place it in my top three or five favourite books of all time (Gunther Grass, The Tin Drum number one). But I haven't looked at it in a long time, and I'm very wary of doing so, because I am fairly certain it will not have the same impact any more.
If the precise question asked was 'what novel has most influenced world writing over the past quarter-century?', then it is difficult to argue the case for 100 Years. Back in the early eighties it looked like magic realism was going to sweep the world, and that it was going to be the dominant force in world literature. But that isn't the case any more. If anything, it is now a bit tired. I seem to recall Louis de Bernieres, whose first three novels were magic realist, saying he got frustrated with it because if you got stuck you could just bring a character back to life. I think that lack of challenge has affected magic realism, and I don't particularly feel that it is a major force in current literature.
The sample survey was very small - 25 - and 100 years was, in fact, the only novel to receive more than one vote, so it is a highly unreliable poll. But it's an interesting question. Raymond Carver is on the list and, for good or ill, that may be right: his pared-down, stark style has had an enormous influence in the past 25 years, much more than Marquez. That may now be waning, of course, but that's the nature of things. Looking more widely than just literature, it would be hard to argue against the Satanic Verses.
But what else? Can any novel or novelist be said to have had a truly significant influence on the world of literature in the past 25 years?