More influential than prizes, or time on the best seller list, or the applause of the critics in determining the lifespan of a literary text is its inclusion in the school syllabus.
John Mullan in the Guardian looks at how exam texts are chosen in Britain and the knock-on effect on the publishing world.
The two biggest novelists turning up on UK syllabuses turn out to be (surprise, surprise) Margaret Atwood and Ian McEwan.
What set texts do you remember having to study? I had to do E. M. Forster's Passage to India, Shakespeare's King Lear and Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles for 'A' Level, all of which I loved. I suppose we read some poetry too, but I can't remember what.
I've also done a fair amount of teaching of set texts over the years, for O Level (in the UK and in Nigeria), for 'A' Level (UK), and Matriculation (here). My favourite book to teach? William Golding's Lord of the Flies: it stands rereading and is as contemporary and relevant as when it was first written. Runners up: Anita Desai's Village by the Sea, and Chinua Acebe's Things Fall Apart.
I'm really happy to see the move towards more contemporary texts in the classroom (in Britain at least). There is a serious need to revise the Malaysian syllabus - I know that a date has been set for it, and hope I will have more news on that before long.
Shakespeare the African (15/3/05)