Outsider classics of lasting transformative value. Or, in other words, books you may not have heard of, which you absolutely should be reading.
All the Devils are Here by David Seabrook
Twenty years ago, in a series of mysterious, incandescent writings, David Seabrook told of the places he knew best: the declining resort towns of the Kent coast. The pieces were no advert for the local tourist board. Here, the ghosts of murderers and mad artists crawl the streets. Septuagenarian rent boys recall the good old days and Carry On stars go to seed. Clandestine fascist networks emerge. And all the time, there is Seabrook himself – desperate perhaps, and in danger.
Dark, strange and immediate, this is a classic work of sui generis British literature. There are devils here, and the reader will remember them.
Texaco by Patrick Chamoiseau
On the edge of Fort de France, the capital of Martinique, squats a shanty town. It goes by the name of Texaco. One dawn, a stranger arrives – an urban planner, bearing news. Texaco is to be razed to the ground. And so he is lead to Marie-Sophie Laborieux, the ancient keeper of Texaco’s history, who invites her guest to take a seat and begins the true story of all that is to be lost.
‘Texaco’ is a creole masterpiece. Told in a newly forged language, it is a riotous collage of indigenous Caribbean and colonial European influences; a kaleidoscopic epic of slavery and revolution, superstition and imagination; a story of human deceits and desires played out to the backdrop of uncontrollable, all powerful History. First published in 1992, it was awarded France’s highest literary award, the Prix Goncourt, and remains an unequivocal classic of Caribbean literature.
Exterminate All the Brutes by Sven Lindqvist
Over twenty years ago, Sven Lindqvist, one of the great pioneers of a new kind of experiential history writing, set out across Central Africa. Obsessed with a single line from Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness – Kurtz’s injunction to ‘Exterminate All the Brutes’ – he braided an account of his experiences with a profound historical investigation, revealing to the reader with immediacy and cauterizing force precisely what Europe’s imperial powers had exacted on Africa’s people over the course of the preceding two centuries.
Shocking, humane, crackling with imaginative energies and moral purpose, Exterminate All the Brutes stands as an impassioned, timeless classic. It is essential reading for anybody ready to come to terms with the brutal, racist history on which Europe built its wealth.