Free Audio Books: Classic European Literature
Mar 17, 2011
Classic European literature includes some of the most well-regarded novels ever written. While these literary masterpieces may seem intimidating, contemporary English translations are available as free audio books. In this format, even the most massive tomes fit easily on your mp3 player.
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
Don Quixote is one of the first modern novels in Western literature and is widely considered among the best. Originally published in two parts in 1605 and 1615, the story concerns a retired man who lives in the Spanish town of La Mancha. He's deluded into believing his books about knights are factual, leading him to set out on his own adventures on his horse, Rocinante. Other characters include his anointed squire, Sancho Panza, and Dulcinea, a neighbor whom he designates as his cherished love.
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Published in 1866, Crime and Punishment is a Russian novel about a young man named Raskolnikov who feels predestined to commit murder. Early in the novel, he murders an old woman with the intention of stealing from her, though the crime goes poorly. He also murders the woman's half-sister who stumbles upon the scene and Raskolnikov fails to steal much of value. The bulk of the novel focuses on Raskolnikov's building paranoia about getting caught. While playing a cat and mouse game with Porfiry, a suspicious detective, Raskolnikov befriends and begins to fall in love with Sonya, an impoverished prostitute.
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
This 1844 French novel begins with Edmond Dantes leading a charmed life. He has a lovely fiancee and an imminent new role as a ship captain. His jealous friends conspire to frame him for treason, leading to his imprisonment. Abbe Faria, a priest Dantes meets in prison, teaches him many things and bequeaths him a hidden treasure. When Dantes escapes from prison, he embarks on a long journey of revenge against those who wronged him.
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
Franz Kafka's 1915 novella begins with Gregor Samsa, a traveling salesperson, waking up to discover he's transformed into a giant insect. Gregor lives with his sister, Grete, and their parents, with all three depending on Gregor's income. Gregor's change deepens the conflicts he has with his family, all of whom must now return to work. He grows increasingly isolated from them and the world, as he is unable to leave his room and everyone who sees him recoils in fear.
Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol
This Russian novel follows Chichikov as he travels from town to town, trying to present himself as a man of means. In reality, he has limited finances and is embarking on an unusual plan to purchase the titular dead souls. These are serfs he buys after they've died but before the next government census occurs, at which time their being dead would render them worthless. Before that can happen, he intends to take out a large loan on them and retire with the great fortune he feels he deserves. Yet not all of the townspeople he encounters are willing to go along with his strange get rich quick scheme.
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
Published in 1862, Victor Hugo's epic focuses on several plots, but the story of ex-convict Jean Valjean is at its heart. Valjean devotes his life to redemption, though he is pursued by Javert, a police chief. Two other major characters are Fantine and her daughter Cosette. Because Cosette is an illegitimate child, Fantine is shunned and eventually must be separated from her daughter while pursuing money as a prostitute. The lives of the major characters, as well as major events in French history, intertwine over the course of the novel.
If you're looking for audio books that fit a cross-town drive rather than cross country, consider some of the many free children's audio books.