A game played by all of us who work at the literary end of the book trade, and I expect by mere consumers too, is: spot the real classic, the author who will be widely read in two hundred years’ time. No need to set down who won’t figure. The winners will come from one of two areas – the hugely best-selling super-stars generally put down by your ivory-towered or spitefully envious literary ‘critics’, and unputdownable by the great book-buying public; or those of us published but not widely known, damned with little or faint praise by the pundits, but supported by a discerning and faithful public.
Here and now my favourite from the first category is Frederick Forsyth; from the second, J. G. Ballard.
The latter of course doesn’t really fit my second category: if not a best-seller super-star, he still sells well, especially in France; he is widely known and widely read; and he has been praised by such ‘establishment’ figures as Angus Wilson, Graham Greene, and Anthony Burgess – though perhaps I