Oct 2016 UPDATE: I’d definitely include Haruki Murakami’s Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World! This isn’t a spoiler but a character has his shadow taken from him and it lives an independent life. Unicorns and ‘reading dreams’ also feature in this magic realism narrative.
I’ve been trying to make a list of a kind of fiction which does not conform to ‘naturalistic narrative.’ What I’m thinking of isn’t merely what nowadays we call ‘magic realism’. To qualify for inclusion on the list the narrative has to either be dislocated in some way as in Vonnegut’s Galapagos or have ‘impossible’ events such as a talking cat as in Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore. Science fiction, Horror and Fantasy do not qualify for inclusion in the list. My personal Top Twenty only include books I’ve actually read. I’d like to include Joyce’s Ulysses but I’m afraid I’ve never read it. Lord of the Flies, although a kind of allegory, wouldn’t count as it is a straightforward narrative taking place in ‘real time.’ Folklore and, for example, Greek Mythology doesn’t count either!
The reason I thought this would be worth doing is that while I enjoy novels such as Double Vision by Pat Barker, which I’ve recently read, I’ve noticed how many non-naturalistic novels are on my shelves. I’m not saying one is better than the other, although a diet of continuous naturalistic fare would become monotonous and my palette would soon crave something spicy.
So, here is my Top Twenty in no particular order. I’ve included a few short stories to get to my 20 quickly; no doubt I’d remember other novels another time. Please let me know which you would include!
1. Galapagos, Kurt Vonnegut
2. The Life & Opinions of the Tom Cat Muir, ETA Hoffmann
3. The Rat, Gunter Grass
4. Kafka on the Shore, Haruki Murakami
5. Auto de Fe, Elias Canetti
6. The Glass Bead Game, Hermann Hesse
7. Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka
8. History of the Word in 10/half Chapters, Julian Barnes
9. Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathon Swift
10. Steppenwolf, Hermann Hesse
11. Animal Farm, George Orwell
12. The Double, Fiodor Dostoevsky
13. The Little Prince, Saint Exupery
14. Pictor’s Metamorphosis, Hermann Hesse
15. Tales of Hoffmann, ETA Hoffmann
16. The Picture of Dorian Grey, Oscar Wilde
17. The Strange Life of Ivan Osokin, PD Ouspensky
18. The Green Child, Herbert Read
19. Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, James Hogg
20. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll