The Greatest Iranian, French "Existentialist" Books of All Time

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This list represents a comprehensive and trusted collection of the greatest books. Developed through a specialized algorithm, it brings together 305 'best of' book lists to form a definitive guide to the world's most acclaimed books. For those interested in how these books are chosen, additional details can be found on the rankings page.

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Existentialist literature is a genre that explores the meaning and purpose of human existence, often through the lens of individual experience and subjective perception. These books often delve into themes of freedom, choice, and responsibility, and may challenge traditional notions of morality and societal norms. Existentialist literature can be introspective and philosophical, and may offer readers a unique perspective on the human condition and the search for meaning in a complex and often chaotic world.

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  1. 1. The Stranger by Albert Camus

    The narrative follows a man who, after the death of his mother, falls into a routine of indifference and emotional detachment, leading him to commit an act of violence on a sun-drenched beach. His subsequent trial becomes less about the act itself and more about his inability to conform to societal norms and expectations, ultimately exploring themes of existentialism, absurdism, and the human condition.

    The 31st Greatest Book of All Time
  2. 2. Journey to the End of The Night by Louis-Ferdinand Céline

    The novel is a semi-autobiographical work that explores the harsh realities of life through the cynical and disillusioned eyes of the protagonist. The narrative follows his experiences from the trenches of World War I, through the African jungles, to the streets of America and the slums of Paris, showcasing the horrors of war, colonialism, and the dark side of human nature. The protagonist's journey is marked by his struggle with despair, loneliness, and the absurdity of existence, offering a bleak yet profound commentary on the human condition.

    The 125th Greatest Book of All Time
  3. 3. The Plague by Albert Camus

    The novel is set in the Algerian city of Oran during the 1940s, where a deadly plague sweeps through, causing the city to be quarantined. The story is told through the eyes of a doctor who witnesses the horror and suffering caused by the disease. The narrative explores themes of human resilience, solidarity, and the struggle against the absurdities of life. It also examines how individuals and society respond to death and disease, creating a profound meditation on the nature of existence and human endurance.

    The 135th Greatest Book of All Time
  4. 4. Nausea by Jean Paul Sartre

    The novel follows a historian living in a small French town, struggling with a strange and unsettling feeling of disgust and revulsion he calls 'nausea'. He grapples with the existential dread of his own existence and the meaningless of life, continually questioning his own perceptions and the nature of reality. As he navigates through his everyday life, he is plagued by his philosophical thoughts and the overwhelming sensation of nausea, leading him to a profound existential crisis.

    The 257th Greatest Book of All Time
  5. 5. The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus

    This book is a philosophical essay that explores the concept of absurdity, and how individuals should respond to life's inherent meaninglessness. It posits that life is essentially absurd due to the conflict between our desire for understanding and the chaotic, indifferent universe. The author argues that the only proper response to this absurdity is to live life to its fullest, embracing and rebelling against the absurdity, rather than resorting to suicide or turning to religion or philosophy for false comfort. The story of Sisyphus, condemned to eternally roll a boulder up a hill only for it to roll back down, is used as a metaphor for the human condition.

    The 587th Greatest Book of All Time
  6. 6. The Fall by Albert Camus

    The novel is narrated by a successful Parisian lawyer who has moved to Amsterdam after a crisis of conscience. He confesses his past misdeeds and moral failings to a stranger in a bar, revealing his growing self-loathing and disillusionment with the hypocrisy and shallowness of his former life. His confessions are a reflection on guilt, innocence, and the nature of human existence. The protagonist's fall from grace serves as a critique of modern society's moral failings and the individual's struggle with guilt and redemption.

    The 669th Greatest Book of All Time
  7. 7. Against Nature by J. K. Huysmans

    The novel follows the life of an eccentric aristocrat who retreats from society to live in isolation, dedicating himself to the pursuit of excessive aestheticism. He surrounds himself with art, literature, and music, and indulges in sensual pleasures and extravagant interior decoration. The protagonist's obsession with artifice over nature and his quest for absolute individualism and self-gratification are explored, reflecting the decadent movement of the late 19th-century France.

    The 725th Greatest Book of All Time
  8. 8. Story of the Eye by Georges Bataille

    This novel is a provocative exploration of the dark side of human nature, featuring two teenage characters who engage in increasingly bizarre and violent sexual games. Their actions, driven by their obsession with eroticism and death, lead them into a world of perversion and madness. The narrative is filled with explicit sexual content and shocking imagery, reflecting the author's fascination with the transgressive and the taboo.

    The 795th Greatest Book of All Time
  9. 9. Froth on the daydream by Boris Vian

    "Froth on the Daydream" is a tragic love story set in a surreal world. The protagonist is a wealthy young man who marries a woman he loves deeply. However, their bliss is short-lived when she develops a strange illness - a water lily growing in her lung. As her health deteriorates, so does their wealth and social standing, leading to a bleak and heartbreaking end. This novel is a poignant exploration of love, loss, and the harsh realities of life, all set within a fantastical and dreamlike landscape.

    The 935th Greatest Book of All Time
  10. 10. Death on Credit by Louis-Ferdinand Céline

    "Death on Credit" is a semi-autobiographical novel that explores the life of a young Frenchman in Paris during the early 20th century. The protagonist, a medical student from a poor family, struggles with the harsh realities of life, including poverty, sickness, and death. The narrative is marked by its dark humor, cynicism, and scathing critique of society, reflecting the author's own experiences and views. The protagonist's journey is a constant struggle against the absurdity and despair of existence, depicted through a series of episodic adventures and misadventures.

    The 1070th Greatest Book of All Time
  11. 11. Our Lady of the Flowers by Jean Genet

    The novel is a dark, poetic exploration of the criminal underworld in Paris, focusing on the life and fantasies of a homosexual prostitute and thief. The protagonist, while in prison, creates an elaborate fantasy world populated by outcasts, convicts, and murderers, including a transgender character who becomes his ideal of beauty and purity. The narrative is filled with graphic depictions of sex and violence, and explores themes of transgression, identity, and the transformative power of the imagination.

    The 1282nd Greatest Book of All Time
  12. 12. The Rebel by Albert Camus

    "The Rebel" is a philosophical exploration of rebellion and revolution. It dissects the nature and origins of rebellion, arguing that it arises from a basic human refusal to accept injustice. The book delves into the many forms rebellion can take, from personal revolt to political revolution, and examines the consequences and ethics of each. The author also critically evaluates the rebellious attitudes of various historical figures and movements, highlighting the potential for rebellion to either affirm or destroy human dignity.

    The 1424th Greatest Book of All Time
  13. 13. The Ravishing of Lol Stein by Marguerite Duras

    The Ravishing of Lol Stein is a novel that explores the life of the eponymous character, who is traumatized by her fiancé's betrayal at a ball. This event leads her into a mental breakdown, after which she returns to her hometown and marries an older man. However, her life takes a turn when she becomes obsessed with a young couple, leading her to question her own sanity and reality. The book delves into themes of love, obsession, and the thin line between sanity and madness.

    The 1513th Greatest Book of All Time
  14. 14. No Exit by Jean Paul Sartre

    The book is a profound existentialist play that delves into the human psyche and the concept of hell through the experiences of three deceased characters who find themselves trapped together in a mysterious, windowless room. As they engage in intense psychological games and confront the worst aspects of their earthly behaviors, they come to the harrowing realization that their torment comes not from any external punishment, but from each other and the eternal company they are forced to keep. The narrative explores themes of freedom, responsibility, and the often unbearable nature of human existence, encapsulated in the famous line, "Hell is other people."

    The 1659th Greatest Book of All Time
  15. 15. Blue of Noon by Georges Bataille

    "Blue of Noon" is a provocative novel set in 1930s Europe during the rise of fascism. The story follows the life of an Englishman living in Paris, who is embroiled in a self-destructive cycle of sexual escapades and political extremism. His journey takes him through various European cities, where he engages in debauchery and encounters the political turmoil of the time. The book explores themes of existentialism, nihilism, and the human condition, offering a dark and complex portrayal of a man's struggle with his inner demons and the chaotic world around him.

    The 2010th Greatest Book of All Time
  16. 16. Down There by J. K. Huysmans

    "Down There" is a novel that follows the life of a Parisian novelist who is disillusioned with his mundane life and seeks solace in the occult. His journey leads him to a satanic priest who introduces him to the dark world of satanism. The protagonist becomes deeply involved in this world, experiencing hallucinations and disturbing visions. The book is a deeply psychological exploration of the human fascination with evil and the macabre, set against the backdrop of late 19th-century Parisian society.

    The 2471st Greatest Book of All Time
  17. 17. Death Sentence by Maurice Blanchot

    "Death Sentence" is a philosophical novella that explores the themes of death, love, and the nature of narrative. The story is divided into two parts, each focusing on a different protagonist who is dealing with the impending death of a loved one. Through their experiences and internal monologues, the novel delves into the complexities of human emotions and the existential dread associated with mortality. The narrative is further complicated by the author's experimental writing style, which challenges traditional storytelling conventions and encourages readers to question their understanding of reality.

    The 2471st Greatest Book of All Time
  18. 18. The Afternoon of Monsieur Andesmas by Marguerite Duras

    "The Afternoon of Monsieur Andesmas" is a poignant exploration of memory, waiting, and the passage of time set in a small Mediterranean village. The narrative focuses on Monsieur Andesmas as he waits on a hillside for a contractor to discuss building a terrace for his daughter. As he waits, various interactions with the local people and his internal reflections reveal the complexities of his past relationships and the deep undercurrents of emotion tied to his family and his life choices. The novel delves into themes of guilt, regret, and the haunting nature of past decisions, all encapsulated in the quiet, tension-filled atmosphere of a single afternoon.

    The 2846th Greatest Book of All Time
  19. 19. The Thief's Journal by Jean Genet

    The book is a fictionalized account of the author's experiences in the criminal underworld of early 20th-century Europe. It is a narrative that delves into the life of a man who embraces his identity as a thief and a homosexual, exploring the intersections of crime, sexuality, and social defiance. The protagonist navigates through various relationships with fellow outcasts and criminals, while also confronting the moral codes of society. The work is known for its poetic and introspective prose, as well as its exploration of themes such as betrayal, freedom, and the search for beauty within the margins of society.

    The 2895th Greatest Book of All Time
  20. 20. Existentialism And Humanism by Jean Paul Sartre

    The book is a philosophical work that presents the core tenets of existentialist thought, emphasizing the individual's unique position as a self-determining agent responsible for the authenticity of their choices and actions. It argues that human existence precedes essence, meaning that people first exist without predetermined purpose and must then define themselves through their decisions and commitments. The text also addresses the implications of this freedom, including the weight of responsibility it places on individuals and the consequent anxiety, as well as the absence of a universal moral code. It concludes with a discussion on the role of human solidarity and the ethical considerations that arise from our interconnectedness with others.

    The 3298th Greatest Book of All Time
  21. 21. Tropisms by Nathalie Sarraute

    "Tropisms" is a collection of 24 short sketches that delve into the hidden undercurrents of human interactions and the subtle, often unnoticed movements of thought and feeling. The book, often considered a precursor to the nouveau roman literary movement, explores the mundane aspects of everyday life and the psychological complexities beneath them, using a unique, impressionistic style. The term 'tropisms' refers to the instinctive reactions of humans, similar to the biological responses of plants to stimuli.

    The 3662nd Greatest Book of All Time
  22. 22. Furor and Mystery by René Char

    "Furor and Mystery" is a collection of poems that explores the themes of resistance, freedom, and the human condition. The author, a member of the French Resistance during World War II, uses his experiences to craft evocative and powerful verse. The poems are filled with metaphors and imagery, often drawing on nature and the Provencal landscape to illustrate the struggle against oppression and the search for truth.

    The 3676th Greatest Book of All Time
  23. 23. Heartsnatcher by Boris Vian

    The novel is a surreal and satirical tale set in a bizarre town where the eccentric inhabitants live under the oppressive rule of a despotic and whimsical figure. The narrative follows the lives of the townspeople, who are subjected to absurd and often cruel whims that challenge their sanity and morality. As the story unfolds, the characters confront the absurdity of existence, the nature of love and desire, and the struggle for individual freedom against authoritarian control. The book combines elements of fantasy, dark humor, and existential philosophy, creating a unique and thought-provoking exploration of human nature and society.

    The 5239th Greatest Book of All Time
  24. 24. The Red Grass by Boris Vian

    "The Red Grass" is a surreal and philosophical novel that delves into the life of a man obsessed with creating a machine that can record and alter human memories. Set in a bizarre and shifting world that defies the constraints of time and space, the protagonist navigates through a series of existential crises and encounters with eccentric characters, all while grappling with the implications of his invention. The narrative explores themes of reality, identity, and the nature of existence, challenging the reader to question the very fabric of their perceptions and the consequences of tampering with the human mind.

    The 5251st Greatest Book of All Time
  25. 25. The Wall by Jean Paul Sartre

    The book in question is a profound exploration of the human condition, particularly the psychological turmoil and existential dread faced by individuals confronting their mortality. Set against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War, it follows the story of a group of prisoners sentenced to death, focusing on their emotional responses and the philosophical introspection of the protagonist. As the characters grapple with the inevitability of their fate, the narrative delves into themes of freedom, the absurdity of existence, and the search for meaning in a seemingly indifferent universe, ultimately presenting a stark examination of the choices one makes when faced with the ultimate end.

    The 5277th Greatest Book of All Time

Reading Statistics

Click the button below to see how many of these books you've read!


If you're interested in downloading this list as a CSV file for use in a spreadsheet application, you can easily do so by clicking the button below. Please note that to ensure a manageable file size and faster download, the CSV will include details for only the first 500 books.