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The 100 Greatest Novels by ALEX CARNEVALE We can date back all of modern literature to Chekhov's novella My Life , which appeared in Russian in 1896. At about the same time the first translations of new novels by Dostoevsky were hitting American shores, and they too find a place on any compendium of the modern. Many of the novels that contributed in an critical historical capacity to its development are no longer very readable to our modern audience, through no fault of their own. Others, like Tristram Shandy or Moby Dick are far better now than they were at the time of publication, while sharing some of the deficiences of their 19th century brethren.