Who is the greatest living Prose writer ?


The world cup for the greatest living Prose writer

Well as ever the backlash of the booker winner has started and it is about the comment that Peter Stothard made about Hillary Mantel being the greatest English living English prose writer (Pleased he said that because for my mind if it was world-wide she’d not be near the top ) .So the guardian have open  thread on who is the greatest English prose writer ,well I’m wanting to  go further and ask you all who is the greatest living prose writer ? I feel maybe a discussion that is less Anglo centric be interesting as I feel the best prose aren’t from english at the moment (but that may just be me so steeped in the translation ) so what are your views ? I ll throw three names in the hat to start with –

Peter Nadas – reason able to show the complexities of the human soul and sexual desire in the written word better than any one else .

Cees Nooteboom – travel writer ,prose writer ,novelist ,poet and Holland greatest living writer a jack of all trades and quite possibly a master of them all .

Goncalo Tavares – my current writer I want to read more off and champion . the Portuguese writer is push the bounds of what is fiction unlike anybody has in English for decades .

20 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. WordsAndPeace
    Oct 18, 2012 @ 13:35:46


  2. Bellezza
    Oct 18, 2012 @ 14:48:28

    I still need to read my Peter Nadas book, recommended by you, and bought long ago.

    This is a very hard spot to define, and you know my heart leans toward Haruki Murakami. However, I can see Words and Peace’s point on Muriel Barbery for the French language. Perhaps we should select the author according to language? 🙂


  3. Richard
    Oct 18, 2012 @ 15:00:14

    Javier Marías. In his digressions and seductive byways, he has combined humor, self-examination, and constant speculation, what he has termed “literary thinking,” to produce masterpieces.


  4. Ryan
    Oct 18, 2012 @ 15:08:41

    I haven’t read either of Hilary Mantel’s books yet, though I have both of them. But if you asked me who the greatest living English prose writer is, I’d have to answer Kazuo Ishiguro. He’s consistently awesome.


  5. Heather
    Oct 18, 2012 @ 15:16:56

    I think it would be hard to group together translations and those written in english. Then you would have to include the translator ase or she has a major input on the choice of wording.
    I did read hilary Mantel’s book Wolf Hall and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Very readable, it flowed and pulled me right through even though it was a long book. if that’s what you mean by being a good prose writer, then she is, but is she the best, I have no idea.


  6. Rise
    Oct 18, 2012 @ 15:48:05

    As with Richard, I’ll go for Javier Marías. It’s not always an issue of language or translation. I’ve read books by him done by three different translators and they were all distinctive. Richard already gave a future Nobel citation.

    Also: J. M. Coetzee and César Aira (for their variety and intelligence), and the half-books I’ve read of J. M. G. Le Clézio and Laszlo Krasznahorkai made me a fan already.


  7. lizzysiddal
    Oct 18, 2012 @ 16:52:08

    Am quite happy for this accolade to remain with Mantel. Her prose is wondrous.


  8. farmlanebooks
    Oct 18, 2012 @ 17:52:14

    It isn’t Mantel, but I can’t narrow it down – there are far too many. Rohinton Mistry is my favourite living author, but he has only written one masterpiece (and two other fantastic books) and I’m thinking that isn’t enough for this accolade – especially since he isn’t even in translation. I haven’t read any of your suggestions so I guess I should try them and then let you know.


  9. Tony
    Oct 18, 2012 @ 21:49:19

    I love Vikram Seth’s writing, and Sjón has impressed me greatly this year. In some ways, Murakami is up there, in others not 😉 Nádas does have that Proustian style going, but I haven’t read many of the other names mentioned above (including Mantel!).

    The real problem with this question is that every other name I come up with belongs to a writer who is no longer living – or, to misquote a minor indie hit from the 90s, all the writers I like are those who are dead… 😉


  10. Nana Fredua-Agyeman
    Oct 18, 2012 @ 22:17:58

    can’t answer this question now. several authors to read. But this is great.


  11. Lisa Hill
    Oct 19, 2012 @ 08:53:55

    I’m going to offer Gerald Murnane from Australia. I think he’s consistently fascinating.


  12. St. Orberose
    Oct 19, 2012 @ 19:01:49

    Although I don’t like the man very much, I think what António Lobo Antunes does with words is magical, alchemical. He writes as if God himself were choosing the words for him, they all fit perfectly in the sentence.


  13. parrish lantern
    Oct 20, 2012 @ 08:28:31

    I agree English language definition is to narrow, although to be honest not keen on the term prose which is defined as Written or spoken language in its ordinary form, without metrical structure. purely because what it is that we like about a specific writers style is although it uses that “ordinary form” it takes language far up & beyond it that it almost becomes something else, in some alchemical process transcends those limits.
    This is me waffling instead of saying ” I dun know”


  14. claire
    Oct 21, 2012 @ 07:20:26

    I can’t say as I haven’t read that many authors and the thing is, whenever I read a book with language so overwhelmingly beautiful I tend to feel it is the best one, then I read another and then that feels like it’s the best one, and so one. I can’t pick one, so many writers wonderful in different ways.


  15. Chinoiseries
    Oct 21, 2012 @ 11:36:18

    You make me want to pick up another book by Cees Nooteboom. I need to read more Dutch authors anyways 😉


  16. Nicola
    Oct 21, 2012 @ 21:22:24

    Anne Tyler.


  17. Seamus Duggan
    Oct 21, 2012 @ 23:45:38

    This is an impossible conundrum. It’s hard to separate writing from what is being written about, or from the credibility of the voice, or from plotting and structural control.
    However, just to add fuel to the fire, the name that came to mind for me was Marilynne Robinson. But if I think for a moment longer I’ll only come up with more names.


  18. Susannah
    Nov 10, 2012 @ 17:37:13

    William Trevor gets my vote.


  19. Trackback: Jerusalem – Farm Lane Books Blog
  20. Jamie Berber
    Jul 04, 2014 @ 19:53:31



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October 2012


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