Last week it was revealed that a possible sequel to Catcher in the Rye may be on the cards. In light of this news about the possible posthumous novel from J.D Salinger, we have compiled a list of the top 10 posthumous books you should read.
10. The Mysterious Stranger by Mark Twain
Published posthumously in 1916, The Mysterious Stranger follows the nephew of Satan in Twain’s exploration of religious concepts. This short novel packs many ideas into a short space, yet never feels claustrophobic due to its easy to follow style. Although written in 1916, this work still offers a remarkably fresh account of a world without concepts such as a soul, afterlife and even reality itself. This text captures Twain’s frustration with the human race and the dark mind-set that engulfed him towards the end of his life. Satan’s nephew descends on a small village and befriends three young boys. His subsequent relationship with these boys, a synecdoche of the human race, proves incredibly thought-provoking and tests the reader’s own preconceptions of God and religion. A fantastic read!
9. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
This beautifully crafted novel tells the story of young Catherine Morland who leaves behind her rural home for a fresh start in the blustering, robust city of Bath in 1790. Austen wonderfully pokes fun at the Gothic genre, namely The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe, by satirising the naïve, young heroine and her outlook on social life, men and romance. Austen’s narrative and dialogue are both witty and sharp, making this a delightful read. One of the more underrated of her works, Northanger Abbey is a fresh take on Gothic fiction, which became so saturated with weak, female protagonists in the 18th century. Austen serves up the perfect respite from this, in a novel that only she could have written with such panache.
8. The Original of Laura by Vladimir Nabokov
This novel is Vladimir Nabokov’s final piece of written work, which he intended to hide away from the public eye. Written in fragments and draft form, The Original of Laura is a collection of notes that were supposed to be burnt after Nabokov’s death in 1977. The text includes perforated notes that can be organised, re-organised and positioned so that you can attempt to grasp a sense of the novel. The protagonist, Laura, is like a ghost that shifts between the cards and fully embodies the novel’s detached, post-modernist style. This book has generated much debate about what it would’ve been like in its complete state; however the fragments have a power that is hard to ignore. This is most certainly a book everyone should read and is a true testament to Nabokov’s literary prowess.
7. Between the Acts by Virginia Wolf
Set in the summer of 1939, Between the Acts, follows the wanderings of several different characters as they attend their annual village pageant. Another war appears more imminent than ever and this takes a psychological toll on all of the characters throughout the course of the novel. The characters themselves appear unfinished, as if the war itself prevents the creative act from realising fully fleshed out individuals. The impending war also acts as a counter to the pageant itself, which consists of scenes from England’s history played out to the audience. Woolf executes the stream-of-conscious with her usual finesse to deliver a novel that captures the mind-set of its author of Britain at a charged moment in time. This is a fantastic read and a great testament to Woolf’s skill as an author.
6. The First Man by Albert Camus
The unfinished manuscript of Camus’ last novel was discovered in the wreckage of the car accident that killed him in 1960. In the most autobiographical of his works, The First Man recounts the tale of Jacques Cormery who is subject to poverty as a child growing up in Algeria during WWI. Camus writes with such a poignant clarity that this tale is hard to forget once you have finished. It delves into the writer’s mind, as he struggles to find his place in the world. The First Man is a brilliant read that conveys the essential components of human life; school, childhood, the body, but out of all of these it is Cormery’s relationship to his mother that strikes a deep chord with the reader. A truly moving and exquisitely crafted novel.
5. The Pale King by David Foster Wallace
It is hard to contemplate this book, as David Foster Wallace never intended for it to be read. After his suicide in 2008 his widow, Karen Green, found the lose sheets of a manuscript and a few computer files that now resemble the novel we have today. Centered around the US tax office, this novel is a fragmented and challenging read that deals with the everyday tedium of the modern worker. The chapters do not follow on easily from one another and by all rights could stand alone as stories themselves, however Wallace plays on this disconnection by filling each chapter with tedious details. In reading this work, you almost re-enact the worker’s boredom which is laid bare through the narrative style and language used. Not for the faint-hearted, The Pale King is a modernist triumph.
4. Hadji Murat by Leo Tolstoy
This short novel was written by Tolstoy 1896 to 1904 and explores the fictional meeting between two immense world powers; the Russian Tsar and the Muslim chieftains. The famous Chechen warrior Hadji Murat, who has spent many years fighting the Russians, defects to join his enemies’ side after falling out with his commander. He now finds himself in a difficult position, as neither the Russians nor the Chechen’s believe him to be on their side. Tolstoy’s protagonist is complex, ruthless, cruel but above all likeable and he comes to embody the strong theme of resistance that runs through most of Tolstoy’s work. This a gripping novella with a powerful moral undertone that makes it very difficult to put down.
3. The Millennium Series by Steig Larsson
The Millennium Series is the three novel tour de force by Steig Larsson that centres around Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist. Originally planned as a 10 book series, this work of fiction sadly ended with The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest after Larsson’s sudden death in 2004. The novels have since become international best-sellers and Larsson’s character Lisbeth is firmly cemented among the best protagonists in crime thriller fiction. This intricate plot is weaved together by Larsson in astonishing detail and really will have you gripped from start to finish. The settings and situations of Lisbeth seem to spring to life from the page, making this as a truly phenomenal read.
2. The Trial by Franz Kafka
The Trial is a fantastic, shocking and brutal novel that hovers dangerously in the liminal space between fantasy and reality. Josef K. has been arrested and put on trial for a crime he has no knowledge of, and for a crime he did not commit. After his arrest he must then return to the same court room every day to attest his innocence, putting intense strain on his already fractured mental state. With nothing left to lose, Josef begins to aid his downfall in this chilling novel by Kafka. The plot is a labyrinthine, which Kafka leaves a faint trail of string through so that you teeter dangerously on the brink of becoming lost. A truly compelling and spine tingling read.
1. The Diary of A Young Girl by Anne Frank
The tragedy of this posthumous text is still hard to fully comprehend after turning over the final page. Anne Frank is a young, vibrant, witty Jewish girl that goes into hiding along with the rest of her family during WWII. They cram themselves into her father’s small office in Amsterdam in order to evade capture by the Nazis. The diary is written to a series of imaginary friends and Anne captures the toll of the war on her family and most importantly on herself. In the horrifying situation of WWII, Anne remains hopeful, cheerful and captures her experiences in such a vivid way that it feels like you become her confidant through reading this text. The Diary of a Young Girl is a compelling account of the Nazi occupation of Holland and above all an eloquent testament to one young girl’s remarkable spirit.
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