These stories will remind you that we’re all very messed up, and that your mild stalking fantasies are nothing in comparison.
When it comes to love, we’re all quite repressed. It sounds sad, but there’s a clear reason for that: letting our love run completely free and without any restraints could get unhealthy pretty quickly. Can you picture what you would do if you had no shame at all? If you were able to pursue every single idea that goes through your head when you think about the person you like? If there’s any kind of order in this world, it’s because most of us manage to control our desires most of the time. Nevertheless, even when we control them, they still run amok in our heads. That’s why novels showing characters without any filters for their messy and dangerous desires fascinate us so much. They reflect what we’re not allowed to fully show or express in our daily, civilized lives. However, if you ever feel that you need to process your own obsession with a person you like, these stories will help you remember that we’re all very messed up, and yet, your mild stalking fantasies are nothing in comparison to those of the characters in these novels.
Identity, by Milan Kundera
Identity is the one that best articulates the dark and unacceptable desires that we don’t share with anyone, including our partners. At the beginning of this novel, Chantal feels old and undesirable. She walks through the streets and notices that men don’t look at her the way they used to. After she mentions this to her lover Jean-Marc, she begins receiving anonymous letters from a secret admirer that finds her beautiful, and the idea of a furtive stranger looking at her revives her confidence and unleashes the events that disrupt her relationship.
I Love Dick, by Chris Kraus
The title's words are only a few among the many letters that Chris, the protagonist of this book, writes to Dick: “You shrunk and bottled in a glass jar, you’re a portable saint. Knowing you is like knowing Jesus. There are billions of us and only one of you…” Immediately after meeting him, Chris falls intensely in love with Dick. This story evolves into an irreverent meditation on desire, repression, and release. The story focuses on what a committed couple can achieve, sexually and intellectually, when they start sharing and fueling their hidden fantasies and obsessive fixation on Dick. What’s frightening about this book is the certainty that unabashed desire will bring chaos into our lives, and we won’t always know how to handle it.
Cosmos, by Witold Gombrowicz
This is a novel about paranoia, but it’s also the strangest love story. It focuses on the unnerving psychological lives of two men as they spend their vacation in an isolated family’s pension. As one of them becomes more and more involved with their lives, the author shows us that love isn’t necessarily pure. It doesn’t always have good intentions, and it doesn’t always include positive feelings. When in love, some people describe a warm sensation in their chest. Others, like the protagonist of Gombrowicz’s novel, only feel the emptiness of unfounded fear. If you want to read about the kind of lover that becomes a sort of unorthodox detective, or about someone that analyzes the object of their obsession without caring about their well-being at all, I deeply recommend this book.
The Tunnel, by Ernesto Sabato
This is the book that made me fall in love with literature when I was a teenager. It’s narrated from the point of view of a killer that confesses his crime from the beginning, and it contains the best descriptions I’ve ever read about obsession and how it begins. In this case, it all starts with a small gesture in front of a painting. As the painter and narrator, Juan Pablo Castel, explains why he killed the woman he loved, as well as learn the reasons behind his crime and the events that led to it, all fueled by his jealousy and obsession.
The Invention of Morel, by Adolfo Bioy Casares
What would you do if you had the freedom to spy every aspect of someone’s life? What if you’re in love with them, but your relationship can only be one-sided? You can look at everything they do, but they cannot see you, listen to you, or react to your actions. Would you find a way to make it work? The Invention of Morel is a novel about a man on an island and about the extent of his obsession. Adolfo Bioy Casares uses science fiction to explore reality with astounding insights. If you don’t believe me when I say that this book is a masterpiece, at least believe Jorge Luis Borges, because he thought so.
After reading these books and getting to know their characters, you’ll feel like a completely healthy individual. Most likely you’ll believe that the person you’re mildly obsessed with is lucky to have you.
If you loved this article, check these literary recommendations:
Images by Lukasz Wierzbowski.