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Tuesday, 7 May, 2002, 12:03 GMT 13:03 UK
Don Quixote gets authors' votes
Don Quixote cartoon
Don Quixote has inspired films, a ballet and a cartoon
Leading authors have named 17th-Century Spanish story Don Quixote as the best work of fiction ever written, ahead of works by Shakespeare, Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky.

The romantic satire, written by Miguel de Cervantes, won 50% more votes than any other book in a poll of some of the world's most acclaimed writers.

Carlos Fuentes
Carlos Fuentes has praised Miguel de Cervantes
Salman Rushdie, Norman Mailer and Nadine Gordimer were among the authors to give their views on what were the best and most important novels, stories and plays in history.

Don Quixote is about an elderly but absurd knight who seeks adventure, and was an immediate success after being published in two parts, in 1605 and 1615.

The Norwegian Nobel Institute organised the poll, but did not say which stories followed Don Quixote in the other top spots.

A panel of 100 authors was asked to list the 10 works of fiction that they considered the "best and most central works in world literature".

Milan Kundera, John le Carre, John Irving and Carlos Fuentes were also among the writers to cast votes. Authors from more than 50 nations took part.

Salman Rushdie
Salman Rushdie was quizzed for the poll
Fuentes, a Mexican, has described Cervantes as the "founding father" of Latin American literature.

Cervantes has also been credited with shaping literary style, and Don Quixote has been acclaimed as "the first great novel of world literature".

Books by Dostoyevsky cropped up most often on the shortlist of the top 100 works, with four entries.

Shakespeare, Kafka and Tolstoy each had three works on the list, while Faulkner, Flaubert and Garcia Marquez, Homer, Thomas Mann and Virginia Woolf had two.

The poll was carried out by Norwegian Book Clubs to promote classical literature over TV, films and computer games.

The BBC's Lawrence Pollard
"The aim was to promote the greats of literature in the face of TV, videos and computer games"
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