Charles Dickens for our time?

Reflecting today on Charles Dickens, his work, the social portraits of his time, I was wondering if we had a Dickens or a Zola for our time.

Any idea? A fiction writer who would portray the tough social times so many go through in our 21st century?

He/she can be a European or American writer – I’m thinking more of our Western world here.

Please share any thought, with some examples of titles if necessary. Thanks!


5 thoughts on “Charles Dickens for our time?

  1. I think many people who love Charles Dickens and consider him a master forget that he was also responsible for the commercialization of the novel. He wrote for an audience he usually surveyed too, so although now we love him as a classic, he was a hit at the time.

    For me, it would be Margaret Atwood: she deals with women, children, ecology, history and historical rewritings, relationships… everything!


  2. While I might go crazy if I see another young author described as the new “Dickens”, I have to admit that your inclusion of Zola here has placated me (and better explained what kind of author you’re looking for).

    I can’t name one particular author, but there are a few books I’ve read recently that might fall into the same Dickens/Zola-esque category of social critique. The best would be The Barbarian Nurseries which gives a good glimpse of modern Southern California. American Rust was another excellent novel that did a pretty good job of showing the difficulties faced in many of America’s more out-of-the-way towns. Another that perhaps isn’t meant to be as serious (but nonetheless succeeds at being very relevant and thought-provoking) is Fathermucker which I just finished reading yesterday and think does a fairly accurate job of displaying a liberal middle class society and family life.

    I wouldn’t say any of these novels (and their authors) are quite as ambitious as Zola ever was… and while I would love to see a modern talent take up that challenge, I don’t think it’ll ever truly happen. I often feel that literature today focuses a little less on external society as it does on internal, more character-driven development. Interesting question, though. I think I shall try to keep a sharper eye out for more books that could fall in this category.


    • Wow, thanks so much for your comment, this makes it blogging at its best! Thanks for the titles you share, I’m ashamed I never heard of them, except the most recent one. I really appreciate your input on why we seem to no longer have writers such as Dickens or Zola. That makes sense, and you put it in perfect words, thanks again!


  3. Pingback: Biblibio: Literature as a social critique | Literature

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