4L’Écume des jours (Boris Vian)

This is a surrealist novel written in 1947. Boris Vian was a real polymath. He was a writer, poet, musician, singer, translator, critic, actor, inventor and engineer but is mostly known now for his writing. Since L’Écume des jours is surrealist, animals talk and inanimate objects have human emotions. The main character Collin is a wealthy man who is desperate for love. He marries a woman named Chloe after meeting her at a party but during their honeymoon, she falls mysteriously ill. She is diagnosed with ‘a water lily in the lung’ (a clear example of surrealism) so she always needs to be surrounded by flowers. The symbolism of Chloe’s disease is often compared to the author’s chronic heart condition.


5À la recherche du temps perdu (Marcel Proust)

20th century French books are not the easiest to read… And this one is very philosophical and a little bit cryptic, but it is a true 20th-century classic. The novel was published between 1913 and 1927 and depicts the recollection of the aristocratic narrator’s adult experiences and childhood memories. The most famous part is the narrator’s flashback of him as a young boy, eating some madeleines (French cookies). There are a number of themes explored like: memory, separation anxiety, art, and homosexuality. It is known as one of the most famous books of the 20th century and was also recognized as the ‘modern novel’.

6La Condition humaine (André Malraux)

La Condition humaine is a novel written in 1933 written by André Malraux. The plot mostly takes place in Shanghai, China. It is about the failed communist rebellion of 1927. The four main characters: TChen Ta Erh (an assassin), Kyoshi (“Kyo”) Gisors (the leader of the rebellion), Katow (a Russian), and Baron Clappique (a French merchant and smuggler) lived separate lives that through the book are intertwined. TChen Ta Erh becomes obsessed with death after assassinating an authority and becomes a terrorist before killing himself in a failed suicide bomb attempt. The other three characters either die or die ‘figuratively’.