3 October

In the Introduction to his A Lifetime's Reading, Philip Ward makes note of UNESCO's Tentative List of Representative Works of World Literature, including roughly 1500 literary works, published in 1972. Ward pronounces it a failure, "due to the outrageous imbalance by which almost every language spoken by a Unesco member state had to be represented by a book. There were fewer books in Chinese than in Dutch, or Polish, or Portuguese." This critique is misleading; such a requirement would've created an imbalance only if it had mandated a single work for each language. As we've seen from the "great books" lists transcribed here, the presence of more works in European languages than in Chinese (or Arabic, etc.) is no surprise, even from the U N. Moreover, the UNESCO project leaders made the right choice in categorizing the works by language, not nation or ethnicity.

This list is too massive for me to consider including in the project at this point. The document linked-to above presents its own problems. The introductory portion asserts that the titles are given in their original languages, but many of them (perhaps just written in languages that don't use the Roman alphabet) are actually given in French.