We’ve all probably read at least a few of the titles adorning your average list of the world’s most unforgettable novels. Twain, Hemingway, Joyce, Orwell, and every other commonplace literary name; all of them certainly penned great works, stories which forced us to re-think our surroundings and even dispute the truths and values which our individual worlds impart to us. But no matter how genius it may be, you can only read a novel so many times before its novelty fades.
If you’re craving to chase a Shakespearean buzz or follow up a Dickens binge with some deliciously underrated food for thought, take a look at this list of five classic works of literature which have so far flown under the radar.
- The Monk by Matthew Lewis (1796) – Lewis wrote his crowning literary achievement when he was only 19 years old. Its remarkably complex story depicts a God-fearing monk’s descent into total, Satan-induced psychopathy and won Lewis center stage under London’s literary spotlight. The novel was equally praised and reviled, with critics celebrating Lewis’s ingenuity in character creation and condemning the story’s moral bankruptcy.
- Against the Grain by Joris-Karl Huysmans (1884) – A testament to rebellion, Against the Grain was composed as a statement decrying the sickening displays of personal excess often seen among 19th century French society’s wealthiest. It follows a rich old man’s desire to discard a luxurious lifestyle and spend the rest of his years indulging his disgust for society through the study of art’s hidden messages.
- Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell (1853) – Originally published as a series of satirical installments, Cranford examines the changing countryside customs of an England on the brink of industrial revolution. This work is particularly notable for its unique presentation of gender dynamics during a time when women were still largely viewed as subservient to men.
- The Last Days of Mankind by Karl Kraus (1922) – For those searching a little-known piece of brilliance to read, it doesn’t get much more obscure than Karl Kraus’s The Last Days of Mankind. Intended as a play, it spans more than 200 unique scenes, which include a moment where 1,200 horses charge from the ocean, fleeing a flamethrower that happens to have a beautiful singing voice. Kraus’s masterpiece uses first-person accounts to depict a strange, distorted, but nonetheless accurate depiction of how the media’s glorified depictions of war actually sustain conflict.
- Zeno’s Conscience by Italo Svevo (1923) – Zeno Cosini is perhaps the most neurotic man to ever think a thought. Written in the style of a psychiatrist-prescribed diary, Zeno’s Conscience amusingly reflects and amplifies his mental acrobatics as Zeno attempts to navigate the simple complexities of everyday life.