The Greatest "Surrealism" 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 268 '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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Surrealism

Surrealism is a genre of literature that explores the subconscious mind and the irrational aspects of human experience. It often features dreamlike imagery, unexpected juxtapositions, and a sense of the uncanny. Surrealist literature seeks to challenge conventional thinking and push the boundaries of reality, often blurring the lines between fantasy and reality. It is a genre that celebrates the power of the imagination and encourages readers to question their perceptions of the world around them.

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  1. 1. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

    This novel is a complex narrative that weaves together three distinct yet intertwined stories. The first story is set in 1930s Moscow and follows the devil and his entourage as they wreak havoc on the city's literary elite. The second story is a historical narrative about Pontius Pilate and his role in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The third story is a love story between the titular Master, a writer who has been driven to madness by the criticism of his work, and his devoted lover, Margarita. The novel is a satirical critique of Soviet society, particularly the literary establishment, and its treatment of artists. It also explores themes of love, sacrifice, and the nature of good and evil.

  2. 2. Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges

    "Collected Fiction" is a compilation of stories by a renowned author that takes readers on a journey through a world of philosophical paradoxes, intellectual humor, and fantastical realities. The book features a range of narratives, from complex, multi-layered tales of labyrinths and detective investigations, to metaphysical explorations of infinity and the nature of identity. It offers an immersive and thought-provoking reading experience, blurring the boundaries between reality and fiction, past and present, and the self and the universe.

  3. 3. Franz Kafka: The Complete Stories by Franz Kafka

    This collection of stories offers a comprehensive look at the work of a renowned author, known for his surreal and often unsettling depictions of modern life. The stories explore themes of existential anxiety, guilt, and absurdity, often through narratives in which ordinary people face extraordinary, inexplicable circumstances. The collection showcases the author's unique style and his profound influence on 20th-century literature.

  4. 4. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

    A man's search for his wife's missing cat evolves into a surreal journey through Tokyo's underbelly, where he encounters a bizarre collection of characters with strange stories and peculiar obsessions. As he delves deeper, he finds himself entangled in a web of dreamlike scenarios, historical digressions, and metaphysical investigations. His reality becomes increasingly intertwined with the dream world as he grapples with themes of fate, identity, and the dark side of the human psyche.

  5. 5. Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges

    "Labyrinths" is a collection of short stories and essays that explore complex themes of infinity, parallel universes, and the blurred lines between reality and illusion. The narratives often feature protagonists who are scholars or librarians, trapped in surreal, metaphysical landscapes. The author's unique writing style combines elements of magical realism, philosophy, and detective fiction, creating an intricate web of narratives that challenge the reader's perception of reality and fiction.

  6. 6. 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.

  7. 7. Nights At The Circus by Angela Carter

    "Nights at the Circus" is a fantastical tale set in the late 19th century, centering around a trapeze artist who claims to be a swan princess with wings. A journalist is intrigued by her story and joins the circus to uncover the truth. As the troupe travels from London to Siberia, the journalist becomes increasingly enchanted by the strange world of circus performers and his relationship with the trapeze artist deepens. The book explores themes of love, freedom, and the blurred lines between reality and illusion.

  8. 8. 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.

  9. 9. Hopscotch by Julio Cortázar

    This avant-garde novel invites readers into a non-linear narrative that can be read in two different orders, following the life of Horacio Oliveira, an Argentine intellectual living in Paris with his lover, La Maga. The story explores philosophical and metaphysical themes, delving into the nature of reality and the human condition, while also examining the struggles of intellectual and emotional life. The second part of the novel takes place in Buenos Aires, where Horacio returns after La Maga disappears, and where he grapples with his past, his identity, and his place in the world.

  10. 10. Lanark by Alasdair Gray

    "Lanark" is an unconventional narrative that combines elements of fantasy, dystopia, and realism. The protagonist, a man named Lanark, moves through two parallel existences. In one, he's a young man named Duncan Thaw in post-war Glasgow, struggling with his artistic ambitions and personal relationships. In the other, he's Lanark in the grim, bureaucratic city of Unthank, suffering from a mysterious skin condition and grappling with his identity and purpose. The novel explores themes of love, alienation, creativity, and the human condition, presenting a complex and thought-provoking portrait of life and society.

  11. 11. Nadja by André Breton

    The novel is a surrealistic exploration of the narrator's relationship with a young woman named Nadja. As the narrator becomes infatuated with Nadja, their encounters become more and more dreamlike. The book delves into the nature of reality and the power of the subconscious mind, blurring the lines between dreams and reality. It is also a commentary on the socio-political climate of Paris in the early 20th century, showcasing the author's views on art, life, and love.

  12. 12. Maldoror (Les Chants de Maldoror) by Comte de Lautréamont

    "Maldoror (Les Chants de Maldoror)" is a poetic novel that explores the dark and surreal world of the protagonist, Maldoror, a figure of absolute evil who rejects God and conventional morality, often expressing a violent hatred towards humanity. The book is composed of six cantos filled with bizarre and often shocking imagery, which depict Maldoror's experiences in a world that he perceives as chaotic and indifferent. The novel is known for its vivid and often disturbing exploration of the human condition and its subversion of traditional literary norms.

  13. 13. 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.

  14. 14. 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.

  15. 15. Les Enfants Terribles by Jean Cocteau

    "Les Enfants Terribles" is a haunting tale of sibling love and rivalry. The story revolves around two siblings, Elisabeth and Paul, who create a private world of their own, isolated from the outside world, in a Parisian apartment. Their intense bond is both destructive and all-consuming, causing them to reject the outside world and its conventions. This results in a tragic ending, as their intense relationship leads to a series of unfortunate events, including heartbreak, manipulation, and ultimately, death.

  16. 16. The Blind Owl by Ṣādiq Hidāyat

    "The Blind Owl" is a haunting narrative that delves into the psyche of a tormented artist who is grappling with love, loss, and existential dread. The protagonist is a reclusive painter of pen cases who is haunted by the image of a mysterious woman, leading him down a spiral of obsession and madness. The story unfolds in a dreamlike narrative, blurring the lines between reality and illusion, and is steeped in Persian mysticism and symbolism. The novel explores themes of alienation, death, and the fragility of the human condition.

  17. 17. Pricksongs and Descants by Robert Coover

    This book is a collection of short stories that blend elements of American folklore, historical realities, and contemporary life into a unique, surreal, and often disturbing narrative. The author uses a mix of traditional and experimental storytelling techniques to explore themes such as love, death, and the nature of reality. The stories often feature bizarre, dreamlike scenarios and characters, challenging readers to question their assumptions and perceptions.

  18. 18. Locus Solus by Raymond Roussel

    "Locus Solus" is an avant-garde novel that revolves around the eccentric millionaire inventor, Canterel, who invites a group of guests to visit his estate, Locus Solus. Here, he displays a series of bizarre inventions, each with a detailed backstory. The inventions include a diamond-encrusted machine that constructs intricate mosaics using human teeth, a large glass cage filled with preserved human heads that reenact key moments from their lives, and a device that uses preserved body parts to perform a grotesque ballet. The narrative is heavily detailed and surreal, creating a unique and intriguing exploration of art, life, and the human condition.

  19. 19. The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro

    The book follows a renowned pianist who arrives in a Central European city to give a concert. However, his time there becomes increasingly surreal and disjointed as he is pulled in different directions by the demands of the locals, his own past, and his responsibilities. The narrative explores themes of memory, time, and self-delusion, creating a dream-like atmosphere that blurs the lines between reality and illusion.

  20. 20. 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.

  21. 21. Sixty Stories by Donald Barthelme

    "Sixty Stories" is a collection of short narratives that use unconventional, experimental structures to explore a range of themes. The book is known for its absurdist and postmodern style, and the stories often feature elements of parody, surrealism, and satire. The tales cover a wide array of topics, including art, literature, philosophy, and the human condition, all presented with a unique blend of humor, wit, and intellectual depth.

  22. 22. The Three Stigmata Of Palmer Eldritch by Philip K. Dick

    "The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch" is a mind-bending science fiction novel set in a future where humanity has colonized other planets. The story follows a group of individuals who become entangled in the mysterious and hallucinatory world of a powerful drug called Chew-Z. As they navigate through the blurred lines between reality and illusion, they must confront their deepest fears and question the nature of existence itself. With its thought-provoking themes and intricate plot twists, the book explores the boundaries of perception, identity, and the human condition.

  23. 23. The Infernal Desire Machines Of Doctor Hoffman by Angela Carter

    The novel is a phantasmagorical journey through a world where reality is under siege by the diabolical machinations of a mad scientist who has unleashed desire machines that warp perception and desire. The protagonist, Desiderio, an employee of the Ministry of Determination, embarks on a quest to stop Doctor Hoffman, confronting a series of bizarre and surreal challenges that blend eroticism, philosophy, and violence. As Desiderio travels through cities and landscapes transformed by the machines, he encounters a cast of eccentric characters and experiences dreamlike adventures that challenge the boundaries of reality, identity, and sanity, culminating in a confrontation with the enigmatic Doctor and the resolution of his own complex relationship with Hoffman's daughter.

  24. 24. The Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz

    "The Street of Crocodiles" is a collection of short stories set in a small town in Poland, illustrating the author's unique perspective on reality. The book portrays the narrator's father's eccentricities and his vivid, often disturbing, imagination. The stories are filled with bizarre, dreamlike imagery and metaphors, presenting a surreal and grotesque view of everyday life. The book is a profound exploration of human nature, memory, and the power of imagination.

  25. 25. 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.

Reading Statistics

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