“tragedy is the consequence of a man’s total compulsion to evaluate himself justly” Arthur Miller

“The mark of your ignorance is the depth of your belief in injustice and tragedy. What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.”  Richard Bach

“Despair is the result of each earnest attempt to go through life with justice, virtue and understanding, and to fulfill their requirements. Children live on one side of Despair, the Awakened on the other side.” – Hermann Hesse; Journey to the East”

I don’t think Blood Meridian was that bad, apart from the bloody atrocities, I think the Kid manages to survive. I wrote a review here

I haven’t read Catch 22 yet, but imagine the despair is pretty central.

This is Man Primo Levo simply defies categorization, the author has an almost surgical and godlike ability to express the suffering of his experience during the holocaust. It’s nonfiction, but like Capote’s In Cold Blood, written in a prose that conveys emotion and humanity.

All Quiet on the Western Front is simply terrifying as it shows the graphic horror of WW1 from the experience of a young idealistic boy soldier. Like Saving Private Ryan, Come and See and Platoon, it contains beauty and horrors of war.

The Bell Jar and Native Son both contain the tragic failures of adolescent, similar to the manic depressive mental state of Holden Caulfield in Catcher in The Rye, these two books show the flipside of Caulfield’s self-hate, affluence and loneliness, from the point of view of a young girl and a black teenager. Interestingly, Caulfield’s self-elected destruction contrasts with the plight if these other two characters. There’s a scene in Native Son, a white girl tries to convince the boy that it’s for them to be friends, and he’s completely terrified of her, which actually made me cry I thought it was so sad.

Book of Disquiet, the author was a Portuguese poet in Lisbon, and this was apparently his only novel. Which I’d never finished simply because I found the language and disconnected narrative of the central character almost incoherent and insane. I managed to get about half-way, but this strange modernist text assembles collection of diary entries from a lowly office worker, who resembles a Kafkaesque agitator or The Outsider from Albert Camu’s novel. The language is beautiful and devastating as he goes to work everyday, longs for death and dreams of what love must feel like. He’s a character who feels as if his life has already ended, as he watches the conveyor belt of workers moving through the city. The line, ‘I am the shipwreck of all my wanderings’, will probably stay with me forever, a kind of hollow admission of all life’s failures and defeats.

The Collector by John Fowles, absolute MUST READ, one story told in typical Fowles slight of hand from two different perspectives, both in tandem, allowing the reader to digest the story first from the victim and then the villain. A bright young college girl is kidnapped by a lonely repressed office worker after he wins the lottery. He keeps her prisoner in a small room, and won’t let her leave until she falls in love with him. Very dark, strange and morbidly fascinating.

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. A novel about African folklore and tribes before the arrival of British colonialists, kind of reminded me of Apocalypto and Trainspotting, since although it’s written in English, the plot and story is entirely about African culture. Engrossing, and the scene where the angry father kills the adopted son he loves just because the villagers thinks he’s cursed made genuinely sick with despair.

A Grain of Wheat Ngugi wa Thiong’o. Another story about South African communities destroyed by colonialism and the apartite during the 60s. I can’t remember the whole story, but a scene at the end where the village has a carnival to celebrate the victory of the Mau Mau, and ask a village hero to give a speech about a rebel who’d been killed in the war, but turns out he’d betrayed him to save his own neck, again is devastating. The grief and desperation of the fake hero is awful as he grapples with both the guilt of his betrayal and the loss of his freedom and culture is utterly compelling.

Most heartfelt and uplifting book I’d read about beauty, life and hope, Alain De Botton Consolidations of Philosophy. Also, I found Catcher In The Rye and Flowers for Algernon very sad, but also beautiful and uplifting. Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men should also be in there somewhere too.