Since the moment hominids evolved into cavemen and then into Homo sapiens, humankind acquired consciousness of their own existence and realized it was important to find new forms of transmitting and preserving their history. Symbols and writing systems emerged from their drive to transcend time, but carving stones and surfaces were not enough. Something was missing... something that could tell personal anecdotes from others in such a vast and unexplored world.
History's great leap was not written language itself, but being able to sign stories of lived adventures and achieved feats with our own names. In the twenty third century BC, Sumerian Priestess Enheduanna published the poem The Exaltation of Inanna, which is considered the first literary work in mankind's history. This little creation revolutionized the way in which knowledge was passed on. Knowledge was no longer loose ideas but cohesive documents.
Thanks to books, the thoughts and voice of humans has transcended through thousands of years and we can travel through different times, places and experiences. Like them, we also have the possibility to transcend time if we write our own stories. But the question is: are they worth being read?
The following eight books prove that, despite their hundred or thousand years gap, writers from all eras still have amazing stories to tell. These stories are far from mere entertaining anecdotes, since they offer narratives fit for the most avid and clever readers:
Hyperion or the Hermit in Greece (1882) byFriedrich Hölderlin
Hölderlin was one of the greatest poets of German Romanticism. He had a fond admiration for Greek culture, so he created a book that narrates the confrontation between Classical Greek values and an aggressive state. Hyperion is a young man who grows up following Hellenic values of righteousness and goodwill. He crosses paths with a man called Alabanda, a patriotic revolutionist who wishes to deliver Greece from the Turkish invasion through violence. Hyperion is not willing to cooperate with him, as he despises violence. Shortly thereafter he falls in love with a beautiful young woman called Diotima. War breaks out and he is hesitant about whether or not to join the war, which would imply tainting his hands with blood. This book conveys the most appalling feeling any human heart could experience when life looses its meaning.
Broken April (1978) by Ismail Kadare
This is one of the most famous works by Albanian writer Ismail Kadare. Here he portrays the most obscure and traditional aspects of ancient Albanian culture. The book tells the story of young man, Gjorg Berisha, who is forced to murder a member of a rival clan who took many lives, in order to settle a blood debt that dates from generations ago. Kadare addresses vengeance along with the feelings and consequences it implies. From the beginning, the main character knows that this pointless task, which he cannot escape from, will be his damnation, but still he must complete it.
The Book of Disquiet (1982) by Fernando Pessoa
Portuguese is a language rich in meanings and interpretations; it has many words that do not have a faithful equivalent in English. The basis of this novel is the word "saudade," which refers to the feeling of melancholy that emanates from the distance that keeps you apart from someone who will never come back. Pessoa constantly explores the meaning of this word, as well as the meaning of the word "love".
– Mrs. Dalloway (1926) by Virginia Woolf
This novel focuses in a day on the life of Clarissa Dalloway, an Englishwoman. This is a romantic drama with a thorough psychological depth, an element that characterizes Woolf's works. One day, Mrs. Dalloway is making preparations for a party. and that same day she meets with someone from her past who makes her reflect upon the decisions she has made, which now define her present and her future.
– The Guilty (2007) by Juan Villoro
This is a story about entities who feel betrayed and guilty. It takes place in Mexico and focuses on the lives of a frustrated mariachi, a football player who suffered a bomb attack, a failed poet who travels across the states of Oaxaca and Yucatan, and a window cleaner. Their tales are so extraordinary that they could even be difficult to believe, but with his clever style, Villoro makes everything believable. This book shows why Villoro is a key author of contemporary Mexican literature.
– The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886) by Robert Louis Stevenson
Some people assure that Poe's creative magic was product of severe psychological disorders he suffered during his life. His stories only mirrored the sinister marsh hidden inside his soul. Robert Louis Stevenson's novel shares the same peculiarity. The story portrays a psychiatric disorder that makes people have a double identity: one which embodies evil, and another good. There have been several movie adaptations of this move, but none comes close to the original work.
Android Karenina (2010) by Leo Tolstoy and Ben H. Winters
From the moment we read the title we know that this books is a parody or sci-fi pastiche of Leo Tolstoy's original work. In a more modern Russia automatons, androids, and robots of all kinds proliferate. They must honor a strict moral code along the lines of Isaac Asimov narratives. The husband of Anna Karenina and a group of opposing scientists orchestrate a series of clandestine attacks against the owners of domestic androids. The conflict will put the couple's love to the test and will reveal secrets of an oily, mechanic, and clockwork nature.