Contemporary Fiction Message Board
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I'm afraid many of the authors I like are also rated well by the critics, and hence my selections might seem mundane and conventional: Atwood, Ishiguro, David Guterson, Mistry, McEwan certainly and Toni Morrison and with a special place for Coetzee.
I have to say that this is one question that I am glad it is tough to answer; I know that I have barely scratched the surface of literary fiction, and already I am spoilt for choice. Long live the novel!
Umberto Eco is good value for a writer who seems to tackle the world and everything in it.
The best British writer at present is probably McEwan but I have a soft spot for Ballard.
William Trevor is a great writer but it always seems his ability to craft great short stories means his novels sometimes get unjustly overlooked. Fools of Fortune is one of my favourite novels.
I also will throw in Cormac McCarthy, although I have to admit I started and then stopped reading Blood Meridian. The writing is great, but the story in unrelentingly grim. I'm sure I'll go back to it at some point.
I would have to recommend any foreign international writer who represents and reports the current political and social climate of their country or society as the world's best writer unless you are referring to some other literary, erudite, or learned standard for comparison to include sales, revenue, popularity, etc ...
I am afraid I have to disagree with you on the statement above: not on the grounds of the "recommendability" of Achebe and Mahfouz - they are firm favorites of mine and held in high esteem internationally - but the placement of Achebe.
Chinua Achebe is Nigerian, which is in the Northwestern part of Africa - the official designation is Western Africa, and includes all the countries in the bulbous protruding part sticking out to the west on the northern third of Africa.
Southern Africa is defined in this way:
"The region is generally considered to include the countries of Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe."
Here's a link to a map:
While Egypt is indeed in Northern Africa, Mahfouz's voice tends to ally himself much more closely with Arabian and Levantine interests than those of Africa.
Beyond them, I'd have to consider Nathan Englander and Annie Proulx too....