Two experimental, modernist novels from the early 20th century
The Vatican Cellars by André Gide
Set in the 1890s, André Gide’s famous satire centres around a group of ingenious fraudsters (‘The Millipede’) who convince their wealthy victims that the pontiff has been imprisoned in the Vatican cellars, and a false Pope has been enthroned in his place. Posing as clergy, they con money by promising to obtain the true Pope’s release and restoration.
The book features one of Gide’s most memorable creations: the amoral Lafcadio, who in pushing a man from a moving train commits the ultimate motiveless crime.
Unavailable in the UK for 25 years, this scandalous, funny and highly original novel has been re-translated to mark the centenary of its publication. Supported by English PEN.
‘An expertly constructed network of coincidence and error, shot through with a level of dramatic irony not present in the work for which Gide is most renowned.’ The Irish Times
The Miner by Natsume Sōseki
Translated by Jay Rubin, and with an introduction from Haruki Murakami.
The Miner is the most daringly experimental and least well-known novel of the great Meiji writer Natsume Sōseki. An absurdist tale about the indeterminate nature of human personality, written in 1908, it was in many ways a precursor to the work of Joyce and Beckett.
The narrative unfolds within the mind of an unnamed protagonist-narrator, a young man caught in a love triangle who flees Tokyo, is picked up by a procurer of cheap labour for a copper mine, then travels toward and inside the depths of the mine, in search of oblivion. As he delves, the young man reflects at length on nearly every thought and perception he experiences along the way.
His conclusion? That there is no such thing as human character. The result is a novel that is both absurd and comical, and a true modernist classic.