The Greatest Irish "Fiction, Modernist" Books Since 1900

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This list represents a comprehensive and trusted collection of the greatest books. Developed through a specialized algorithm, it brings together 280 '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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Fiction

Modernist

Modernist literature is a category of books that emerged in the early 20th century, characterized by a break from traditional literary forms and a focus on individual experience and perception. Modernist writers experimented with language, form, and structure, often using stream-of-consciousness narration and fragmented storytelling to convey the complexity and ambiguity of modern life. Themes of alienation, disillusionment, and the search for meaning are common in modernist literature, which reflects the cultural and social upheavals of the time. Overall, modernist literature is a challenging and thought-provoking genre that continues to influence contemporary literature and culture.

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  1. 1. Ulysses by James Joyce

    Set in Dublin, the novel follows a day in the life of Leopold Bloom, an advertising salesman, as he navigates the city. The narrative, heavily influenced by Homer's Odyssey, explores themes of identity, heroism, and the complexities of everyday life. It is renowned for its stream-of-consciousness style and complex structure, making it a challenging but rewarding read.

  2. 2. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce

    This novel is a semi-autobiographical account of a young man's intellectual and artistic development in late 19th-century Ireland. The protagonist struggles with issues of identity, faith, and nationality, ultimately rejecting the traditional values of his Catholic upbringing to pursue his own path as an artist. The book is renowned for its innovative narrative style and its exploration of themes such as individuality, freedom, and the nature of art.

  3. 3. Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

    "Waiting for Godot" is a play that explores themes of existentialism, despair, and the human condition through the story of two characters, Vladimir and Estragon, who wait endlessly for a man named Godot, who never arrives. While they wait, they engage in a variety of discussions and encounter three other characters. The play is characterized by its minimalistic setting and lack of a traditional plot, leaving much to interpretation.

  4. 4. Molloy by Samuel Beckett

    "Molloy" is a complex and enigmatic novel that follows the journey of its eponymous character, an elderly, disabled vagabond, who is tasked with finding and killing a certain person. The narrative is split into two parts: the first is told from Molloy's perspective as he navigates his way through a strange and often hostile world, while the second follows a detective named Moran who is assigned to find Molloy. The novel is renowned for its challenging narrative structure, its bleak and absurdist humor, and its profound exploration of themes such as identity, existence, and the human condition.

  5. 5. At Swim Two-Birds by Flann O'Brien

    This novel is a complex, metafictional work that weaves together three separate narratives. The first is about a lazy, hard-drinking college student living with his uncle, the second is about a devilish Pooka and a loquacious old man, and the third is about a fictional character named Finn who seeks revenge on his author for creating him poorly. The narratives eventually intersect in a unique and humorous way, challenging traditional ideas of story structure and character autonomy.

  6. 6. Finnegans Wake by James Joyce

    This complex and challenging novel is renowned for its experimental style and intricate, dreamlike narrative. It explores the story of a publican in Dublin, his wife, and their three children, but the plot is not linear and often veers into surreal and abstract territory. The book is dense with linguistic games, puns, and allusions to a myriad of cultural, historical, and mythological sources. The narrative is circular, ending in the middle of a sentence that is completed at the start of the book, embodying the cyclical nature of life and history.

  7. 7. The Death of the Heart by Elizabeth Bowen

    "The Death of the Heart" is a novel set in the interwar period, focusing on a sixteen-year-old orphan girl who moves in with her wealthy half-brother and his wife in London. As she navigates the complexities of her new social environment, she develops a crush on a friend of the family, leading to a series of misunderstandings and betrayals. The novel explores themes of innocence, love, betrayal, and the harsh realities of adulthood.

  8. 8. The Third Policeman by Flann O'Brien

    "The Third Policeman" is a darkly comedic and surreal novel about a nameless narrator who, after committing a murder to raise funds for his scholarly obsession with a bizarre pseudo-scientific theory, finds himself wandering in an eerie, nightmarish landscape. He encounters strange characters, including a pair of eccentric policemen who are obsessed with bicycles, and becomes embroiled in a series of increasingly absurd and ludicrous situations. The novel explores themes of existence, reality, and the nature of hell, with a twist ending that forces the reader to question everything they've read.

  9. 9. The Unnamable by Samuel Beckett

    "The Unnamable" is a complex, stream-of-consciousness narrative that explores themes of existence, identity, and the nature of reality. The protagonist, who lacks a clear identity, is trapped in a void and continually questions his existence and reality. As he grapples with his own consciousness, he attempts to tell his story, but constantly doubts and revises it, creating a cyclical, fragmented narrative. The novel is known for its challenging, abstract prose and its exploration of existentialist themes.

  10. 10. Murphy by Samuel Beckett

    The novel explores the life of the titular character, a disaffected and detached man living in London who prefers the realm of his own thoughts to the real world. After securing a job as a nurse at a mental institution, he becomes increasingly detached from reality. The narrative also delves into his relationships with various other characters, including his fiancée, his best friend and a prostitute. The book is known for its dark humor and its exploration of themes such as existentialism and the nature of human consciousness.

  11. 11. Endgame by Samuel Beckett

    Endgame is a one-act play that follows the lives of Hamm, a blind and unable to stand man, and Clov, his servant who cannot sit. They live in a single room, with Hamm's legless parents residing in dustbins. The characters are trapped in a cyclical existence where they constantly argue and contemplate life, death, and their own existence. The play is characterized by its minimalistic setting and bleak outlook on life, reflecting themes of existentialism and the human condition.

  12. 12. Watt by Samuel Beckett

    The novel is a darkly comedic and absurdist exploration of the human condition. It follows the eponymous character, Watt, as he serves as a domestic servant in a bizarre, isolated household. Throughout the narrative, Watt struggles to make sense of his surroundings, the odd behavior of his master, and his own existence. The book is filled with philosophical musings, wordplay, and surreal humor, offering a unique and challenging reading experience.

  13. 13. Krapp's Last Tape by Samuel Beckett

    "Krapp's Last Tape" is a one-act play about an aging man who annually records a review of the past year of his life. On his 69th birthday, he listens to a tape from 30 years earlier, where he reflects on his life at 39, his lost love, and his isolation. The play explores themes of memory, regret, and the passing of time, with the protagonist's relationship with his younger self revealing a portrait of a man in decline.

  14. 14. Eva Trout by Elizabeth Bowen

    "Eva Trout" is a novel about a young, wealthy woman who struggles to find her place in society and understand her own identity. She leaves England to live in France, where she adopts a deaf-mute child in an attempt to avoid loneliness. The book explores themes of isolation, communication, and the effects of wealth on personal relationships. The protagonist's eccentric and often impulsive behavior leads to a tragic climax, shedding light on the consequences of her actions and decisions.

  15. 15. Langrishe, Go Down by Aidan Higgins

    "Langrishe, Go Down" by Aidan Higgins is a poignant and introspective novel that delves into the lives of the Langrishe sisters, Imogen and Helen, as they navigate their way through the complexities of love, loss, and longing in rural Ireland. Set in the 1930s, this beautifully written narrative explores the sisters' turbulent relationships with the men in their lives and their struggle to find their own identities amidst societal expectations. With vivid descriptions and emotional depth, the novel captures the essence of a bygone era and offers a profound exploration of the human experience.

  16. 16. How It Is by Samuel Beckett

    The book is a challenging and experimental novel that delves into the fragmented and often bleak inner monologue of its protagonist, who finds himself lying in the mud, in a dark and indeterminate space. The narrative is characterized by its repetitive and disjointed style, reflecting the protagonist's sense of dislocation and his struggle to make sense of his existence. Through sparse and poetic language, the novel explores themes of solitude, identity, and the human condition, as the protagonist interacts with other vague figures in this desolate landscape, questioning the nature of reality and his own consciousness.

  17. 17. The Complete Dramatic Works Of Samuel Beckett by Samuel Beckett

    This book is a comprehensive collection of Samuel Beckett's dramatic works, showcasing his unique style and exploration of human existence. From the iconic "Waiting for Godot" to lesser-known plays, Beckett's works delve into themes of despair, absurdity, and the human condition. With his minimalist approach and masterful use of language, Beckett's plays continue to captivate and challenge readers, offering a profound reflection on the complexities of life.

  18. 18. Three Novels by Samuel Beckett

    This collection brings together three groundbreaking works by a pioneering figure in modernist literature, each novel exploring themes of isolation, communication, and existence. The narratives are characterized by their sparse, minimalist prose and their focus on the interior lives of their protagonists, who often grapple with the absurdity of their situations and the futility of their actions. The author employs innovative literary techniques to delve into the consciousness of these characters, presenting fragmented and disjointed narratives that reflect the dislocation and alienation of the human condition. Through these works, the author challenges traditional narrative structures and invites readers to confront the complexities of language, meaning, and the struggle to find purpose in an indifferent universe.

  19. 19. Doctor Copernicus by John Banville

    "Doctor Copernicus" is a historical novel that delves into the life of the renowned astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus. Set in the 16th century, the book explores Copernicus' journey from a young boy growing up in Poland to his groundbreaking discovery that the Earth revolves around the Sun. As the protagonist grapples with his scientific findings and the implications they have on his faith and the world around him, the narrative also delves into his personal relationships, inner struggles, and the societal and political context of the time. Through vivid prose and meticulous research, the novel offers a captivating exploration of one of history's most influential figures.

  20. 20. A Girl Is A Half Formed Thing by Eimear McBride

    "A Girl Is A Half Formed Thing" is a powerful and experimental novel that delves into the psyche of a young woman as she navigates through a tumultuous and abusive childhood, her complex relationship with her mentally and physically disabled brother, and her own journey towards self-discovery and identity. Written in a unique stream-of-consciousness style, the book explores themes of trauma, sexuality, religion, and resilience, offering a raw and unflinching portrayal of the human experience.

Reading Statistics

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

Download

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.

Download