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Roy, Rushdie, Seth walk tall among top 100 in UK

Roy's The God of Small Things, Rushdie's Midnight's Children and Seth's The Suitable Boy are in UK's 100 best loved books.

india Updated: May 19, 2003 21:30 IST

 Vikram Seth

The novels

The God of Small Things

by Arundhati Roy,

Midnight's Children

by Salman Rushdie and

The Suitable Boy

by Vikram Seth have been voted by 140,000 people in a BBC poll in the Top 100 "Best Loved Books" in Britain.

Roy and Rushdie are the only two Booker winners in the list. About 70 have been filmed for television or the big screen.

"Surely Indian writers in English have now a place in international literature," said manager of a major chain of bookstores. All the three books he added sold in record numbers.

The list is given in an alphabetical order and starts with 1984 by George Orwell. It includes four Harry Potter books, four by Roald Dahl and other children's books by Enid Blyton, Kenneth Grahame and Jaqueline Wilson. Their children's books make for nearly a third of the 100 fiction titles.

The top 100 was cut down from a total list of 7000 nominations from 140,000

Arundhati Roy

members of the public, four times the number who voted in the initial stages for choosing Great Briton. More than 14000 messages were posted on the website by those who got embroiled in heated and some time funny debates.

Charles Dickens and Terry Prachett have a very strong presence, each having five titles on the list. The top 20 authors are to be announced in September or early October when the public will be asked to vote again to decide which book is the most cherished in this country. The order of the Top 100 would only be known then.

The announcement of the list prompted immediate reaction from authors' societies, with supporters of Jane Austen to Robert Louis Stevenson moving to campaign for their candidate's victory. Jane Austen society has 2000 members and its secretary said she would be alerting all of them to vote for the author. Stiff resistance is expected from the Bronte society.

Indians do not have any such societies but many in the younger generations are showing signs of "patriotism". Members of an Indi-pop group are preparing to canvass their fans to first vote the best book among the three in the list and then go "all out" for a win.

British authors have dominated the list, having 66 of the Top 100 with Americans second on 20 per cent. Forty-one percent were published in the last 30 years. The oldest volume is Austen's Pride and Prejudice published in 1813 and Terry Pratchett's 2002 Nightwatch is the most recent.

Salman Rushdie

Notable amongst absentees were Ernest Hemingway, HG Wells, Agatha Christie, Graham Green, John Le Carre, Arthur Conan Doyle, PG Wodehouse and Barbara Cartland.

Some literary critics have poured scorn on the list, branding it a selection "written by teenagers and young children". One said he felt it was compiled by a "nerd".

Whatever it may be the fact that Roy, Rushdie and Seth's novels are in the Top 100 list is a major milestone for Indian writers in English.

The present betting is on Tolkein's story of the Middle Earth slogging it out with one of JK Rowling's Harry Potter fantasies for the top place.

First Published: May 19, 2003 21:29 IST