From Mark Twain to Dante: Jim Jarmusch lists his favourite books
“In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: ‘It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.’” – Jim Jarmusch
Jim Jarmusch is undoubtedly one of the most prominent and important filmmakers of our times. Regarded as one of the flag-bearers of the American independent film movement with his movies like Stranger Than Paradise, Mystery Train, Night on Earth, and Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai among others; Jarmusch is credited for “permanently upending the idea of independent film as an intrinsically inaccessible avant-garde form.”
He generally avoided the popular tropes of mainstream cinema, instead embracing the counterculture to make films that weren’t like anything seen before. Rightly referred to as an ‘auteur’ for his unique cinematic style that focused more on the idiosyncrasies of its protagonists, brooding atmosphere, musical scores and unconventional narrative forms; Jarmusch shunned the auteur theory and likened his filmmaking process to that of human sexual reproduction: “I put ‘a film by’ as a protection of my rights, but I don’t really believe it.”
Jarmusch further elaborated: “It’s important for me to have a final cut, and I do for every film. So I’m in the editing room every day, I’m the navigator of the ship, but I’m not the captain, I can’t do it without everyone’s equally valuable input. For me it’s phases where I’m very solitary, writing, and then I’m preparing, getting the money, and then I’m with the crew and on a ship and it’s amazing and exhausting and exhilarating, and then I’m alone with the editor again … I’ve said it before, it’s like seduction, wild sex, and then pregnancy in the editing room. That’s how it feels for me.”
An intellectual with a great love for all things art: novels, records, paintings, music; he was an avid reader in his youth and had a greater interest in literature. Jarmusch credits literature with shaping his metaphysical beliefs and leading him to reconsider theology in his mid-teens. Growing up, he and his friends would also steal the records and books of their older siblings—this included works by William Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, and The Mothers of Invention.
He found great inspiration and further influence from them. When questioned about its impact on his films, he notably said: “Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic.”
Quite naturally, we wouldn’t be blaming you if you find yourself to be curious in wanting to know more about the reading habits and preferences/likes/dislikes when it comes to those of the “urban cool” Jarmusch.
Here, from Arthur Rimbaud to Laurence Sterne, and from Impressions of Africa to The Woman Chaser: is the list of Jim Jarmusch’s favourite books.
Jim Jarmusch’s favourite books:
Red Harvest, by Dashiell Hammett
The Gangs of New York: An Informal History of the Underworld, by Herbert Asbury
A Season in Hell, by Arthur Rimbaud
The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, by Laurence Sterne
Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert
Sentimental Education, by Gustave Flaubert
Lost Illusions, by Honoré de Balzac
In Search of Lost Time, by Marcel Proust
Orlando Furioso, by Ludovico Ariosto
Inferno, by Dante Alighieri
Impressions of Africa, by Raymond Roussel
The Woman Chaser, by Charles Willeford
Three by Cain: Serenade, Love’s Lovely Counterfeit, The Butterfly Book, by James M. Cain