Franz Kafka was one of the more complex and thought-provoking authors of the twentieth century, and though he may have died young, his classics like The Trial will live on forever, telling the timeless story of an ordinary man, Joseph K., who one day wakes up only to find himself accused of a crime he has no recollection of committing. What’s worse, not a person in the world seems to be able to tell him what crime he’s actually being accused of. Standing before the grinding gears of the bureaucratic machine Joseph K. must resolve the impossible matter or be grinded down into nothingness, like so many before him.
Albert Camus was always known for his complex stories that were profound studies of human nature, and The Stranger fits that description perfectly, telling the story of a young disinterested in life whose fate quickly spirals out of control for seemingly inexplicable reasons. Meursault isn’t the kind of person anyone is used to, having his own outlook on life and a curious way of justifying his actions and inactions.
However, when his unusual philosophy leads him into dire straits, he cannot help but question all he has ever held true and whether or not a human life, even one such as his, can have a real meaning to it.
Colin Cotterill plunges us deep in the environment he knows best, following the adventures of Dr. Siri Paiboun once again as he races across Laos to find a Buddhist monk who suddenly vanished. As it turns out, that monk went to help a friend cross the Mekhong River into Thailand in order to escape the prosecution and oppression threatening his life.
Unfortunately, nothing goes as planned and the task is severely complicated by everything life can throw at them, including some famous spiritualists, the deadly Laotian special forces, and a terribly-misguided criminal who never knew any better.
Writers often make their best works when life pushes them to by exigent circumstances, and Michael Chabon was powerfully moved by the many touching stories his grandfather revealed to him on his deathbed, so much that it inspired him to novelize his life story.
Which parts of the story are reality and fiction? Perhaps we’ll never know, but that one vagueness opens the doors for us to witness a life as extraordinary and absurd as it is ultimately believable, one that can teach us a whole lot more than most factual biographies could ever hope to.
Umberto Eco has never failed to surprise us with original ideas and plots in his books, and that’s more the case with “Foucault’s Pendulum” than any other work of his, telling the ridiculous story of a hoax conspiracy between various cults and orders becoming, in the middle of which three editors find themselves plunged headlong into peril.
As the unlucky trio will soon find out (much to their chagrin), fiction can quickly seep over into reality and the most ridiculous corners of our imagination can indeed have some truth to them.