The time leading up to World War I saw a radical change in the global cultural mindset. This change in mindset was characterised by a conscious break from traditional thought. This change inspired and encouraged modern writers to explore new subject matter influenced by industrialisation, urbanisation and globalisation. Moreover, modern writers explored subjects like radical individualism and disjointed timelines marked by a curious pessimism. Modernism in literature occurred approximately between 1890 and 1940.
Exclusives.co.za counts down the Top 10 modern novels for the new bookshelf.
10. Ulysses by James Joyce, 1922
Ulysses, one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century, has had a profound influence on modern fiction. In a series of episodes covering the course of a single day, 16 June 1904, the novel traces the movements of Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus through the streets of Dublin.
9. A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle by Hugh MacDiarmid, 1926
The drunk man lies on a moonlit hillside looking at a thistle, jaggy and beautiful, which epitomises Scotland’s divided self. The man reflects on the fate of the nation, the human condition in general and his own personal fears.
8. Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, 1925
As Mrs Dalloway works on the preparations for a dinner party, her thoughts throughout the day wander from memories of the past to interrogations about the present and lead her to assess the choices she has made in life and love.
7. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner, 1929
Depicting the gradual disintegration of the Compson family through four fractured narratives, “The Sound and the Fury” explores intense, passionate family relationships where there is no love, only self-centredness.
6. Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, 1915
Gregor Samsa, a seemingly typical man, wakes up one morning to discover he has been transformed into a gigantic insect. Frustrated and depressed about his physical alteration – and his family’s rejection – Samsa’s plight is filled with underlying meaning.
5. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, 1932
Far in the future, the World Controllers have created the ideal society. Through clever use of genetic engineering, brainwashing and recreational sex and drugs all its members are happy consumers.
4. The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot, 1922
3. Sons and Lovers by D. H. Lawrence, 1913
Paul Morel is the focus of his disappointed and fiercely protective mother’s life. Their tender, devoted and intense bond comes under strain when Paul falls in love with Miriam Leivers, a local girl his mother disapproves of.
2. The Prisoner And The Fugitive by Marcel Proust, 1925
1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1925
Jay Gatsby is the man who has everything. Everybody who is anybody is seen at his glittering parties. Day and night his Long Island mansion buzzes with bright young things drinking, dancing and debating his mysterious character. For Gatsby – young, handsome, fabulously rich – always seems alone in the crowd, watching and waiting, though no one knows what for. Beneath the shimmering surface of his life he is hiding a secret: a silent longing for the one thing that will always be out of his reach. And soon this destructive obsession will force his world to unravel.