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
15 thoughts on “Top Twenty Non-Naturalistic Fiction”
These are lovely books – Gulliver’s Travels, The Little Prince, The Picture of Dorian Grey, and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland are some of my absolute favourites! 🙂
Thanks. Which others would you include? Any personal favourites apart from those you mention?
Hi there, I have only read four of the nn books you listed, Gulliver, Alice, Animal Farm and Dorian Grey. Would you include the Wind in the Willows and /or Dracula? I hadn’t thought of this as a genre so need some help with a definition.
I think I may like your choices but I do not read fantasy and don’t like the Hobbit (ducking the brickbats!)
I’ve just read Apulieus’s The Golden Ass. Have you read it? Brilliant! I’d have to include it on my non-naturalistic list.
I excluded SF, Fantasy and Horror so I’m afraid Dracula and Frankenstein are out! I’d be interested if you can think of others. Wind in the Willows? Umm , borderline!
Huge Oscar Wilde fan, you should check out his fairy tales. Also I think Ulysses is on everyone’s ‘to read’ list!
Yes, I read Oscar Wilde’s fairy tales when I was a teenager! May have another look.
Start with ‘The Happy Prince’ wonderful story about the prince and the swallow, full of naturalistic references
Awesome list. Have read one or two on the list. 🙂 Animal Farm and Gulliver’s Travels.
I have to mention a short story – Crocodile – by Dostoyevsky. If you think old Fyodor didn’t have a sense of humour you simple must read this. It’s one of the funniest stories I’ve ever read!
Oh, I love this list! SO many good books. Orwell is one of my favourite writers, and you’ve got a lot of other excellent reads here. Bookmarking for future use! 🙂
Thanks. I may get round to reading your SF one of these days!
What about “The Third Policeman” by Flann O’Brien?
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I’ve heard of it but don’t know much about it!