Modernism: 5 Books you Should Read at Least Once in your Life
Modernism, a literar and artistic movement which originated from the desire to modernize every type of cultural form. From Joyce to Hemingway, from Virginia Woolf to Conrad
At the beginning of the 20th century, an artistic and literary movement spread across Europe: the so-called Modernism, which originated from the desire to modernize every type of cultural form. Ezra Pound, American writer and founder of Modernist movements like Imagism and Vorticism, created a motto which said “Make it new!” It contained the main idea of this literary avant-garde: a bond between experimentation and detailed criticism.
Let’s find out five of the most important Modernist books that a reader should read at least once in their life.
He was Polish, but is remembered more as a cosmopolitan man, particularly thanks to his job as a sailor. In 1899, he published Heart of Darkness, which deals with the story of Kurtz, a sailor and a man of the world like Conrad, who goes to Africa to bring European civilization. But, once there, he loses himself.
The heart of darkness is that of the civilized man who gets lost in such a primitive and primordial society. In addition, Conrad carries on an interesting analysis about the role of the settler: he is aware of his important ventures but also of the difficulties of living in places so different from what he already knows.
Considered one of the greatest writers of the 20th century, his masterpiece is surely Sons and Lovers, released in 1913.
Gertrude Copper is the main character. She is married to a man who doesn’t love her and for this reason she gives all her obsessive love to her two sons.
Throughout the story, there is a strong introspective analysis of both the parents’ conflicted relationship and the sons’ emancipation process. Moreover, this novel brings forward what will be known as the “Oedipus complex”, named by Sigmund Freud.
Praised as the one of the most innovative and experimental writers of Modernism, in 1914 he published Dubliners, a series of short stories which aim to describe the moral history of his nation, through two aspects: paralysis and escape. The paralysis is due to the politics and the religion of that time, while the escape is the direct consequence but it is always destined to failure.
These short novels can also be divided into childhood, adolescence, maturity and public life.
Finally, in the last chapter, Stephen Dedalus, the main character, abandons the rules in order to give space to his creativity through marked symbolic images.
Released in 1925, Mrs Dalloway is her third novel and a masterpiece of Modernist Literature. “Mrs Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself”: this is one of the most well-known opening lines in English Literature.
Clarissa is the main character and the story takes place in an ambiguous and complex London. The events happen in a single day and they are connected to the so-called “moments of being”, in which there are interior monologues about thoughts and memories.
A Farewell to Arms is certainly one of the most famous novels written by American writer Ernest Hemingway. Published in 1929, it deals with the story of Frederic Henry, who enlists to fight in the First World War because of his romantic ideas. There, he meets the English nurse Catherine Barkley, with whom he starts an intense love affair.
The plot and the stylistic choices made by Hemingway make the reader think about the “Lost Generation”. Hemingway was a member of it and, among their opinions, there was a mistrust of traditional values and a sterile and arid vision of the world. These last two aspects make A Farewell to Arms a true Modernist novel.