Libcom.org's reading guide on literature with a focus on work and accurate representations of working class life, culture and resistance to power.
- The Stars My Destination - In a world where transportation is possible with a thought, prisoners break free, economies crash and the slums emptied. Gully Foyle is marooned in space with a material that could destroy the universe. He has to give it away, but to who?
- Post Office - The job as a postal worker is a thankless one as Bukowski tries to keep his sanity delivering mail around Los Angeles.
- Factotum - Bukowski recounts the conditions in 1944 having faced rejection from the draft, yo-yoing in and out of employment.
- Ham on Rye - Semi-autobiographical 'coming-of-age' novel, telling the story of a young man growing up in Los Angeles during the Great Depression.
[Disclaimer: it should be remembered that while Bukowski was a very good writer, he was also a rampant misogynist and these views come through in his books.]
- "Repent, Harlequin!" said the Ticktockman - Famous short story where time is regulated and being late is a crime. Despite the Ticktockman, the timekeeper who collects time as a punishment, and being sent to Coventry, the Harlequin revolts to create tardiness.
William Gibson and Bruce Sterling
- The Difference Engine - Seminal novel set in an ahistorical Victorian England, where Lord Byron leads the technocratic government funded by trade unions, the Luddites and their Swing Riots threaten London and the first commune is declared in New York.
- Rivethead - Down and out memoirs of an assembly line worker for GM Motors over the 1980s. In amongst co-workers going postal in the local bar, drinking on the job and witnessing mental breakdowns, Hamper wrote the book during his shifts on the shop floor.
- Catch 22 - Former World War II bomber Joseph Heller's 1961 satirical masterpiece is a savage indictment of military madness and stupidity, and the desire of the ordinary man to survive it. It is a tale of the dangerously sane Captain Yossarian, who spends his time in Italy plotting to survive. It does, however, contain casual sexism throughout.
- A Farewell to Arms - Anti-militarist novel set against the backdrop of the Italian campaign during World War One, based largely on Hemingwey's experiences in the war.
- For Whom the Bell Tolls - Novel about a young American dynamiter in the International Brigades attached to a republican guerrilla unit during the Spanish Civil War. A great novel, though Hemingwey regurgitates many of the Stalinist myths about the Civil War.
Ursula Le Guin
- The dispossessed - Sci-fi classic telling the story of life on a planet run along anarchist principles.
- The Four Ways to Forgiveness - Novel about two planets called Yeowe and Werel and the struggle for freedom between the "owners" and "assets".
- The Iron Heel - Dystopian sci-fi novel. The character agitates and struggles for a socialist revolution against an oligarchy. Envisages fascism, despite being written many years prior to its advent.
- The Mexican - short story about a Mexican revolutionary who uses his skills as a boxer to buy guns for the growing rebellion. It ends with a prize fight in the United States, with the hero up against the boxing establishment and the racism of white Americans.
- Anagrams - Benna leads different lives, English teacher, nightclub singer, aerobics instructor. She's a mother and she's never had children. The stories and settings shift around but all are a darkly comic look at being a 30 something woman in America.
- Break their Haughty Power - The true story of 13-year-old Joe Murphy, chased out of his hometown by anti-Catholic bigots, who became a union organiser for the IWW. The novel takes us through lynch-mob assaults on Wobblies in Washington in 1919, the nationwide railroad strike of 1922 and the Colorado coal miners' strike of 1927.
Hubert Selby Jr.
- Last Exit to Brooklyn - Series of stories set in 1950s Brooklyn; a local union official struggles with his sexuality during a strike, a sex worker trawls the bars for sailors and steals their money, and a crossdresser is thrown out of her home. Trigger warning, features a rape passage.
- Going Away - Autobiographical novel about a worker who, after being fired from his job, drives from LA to New York, drinking booze, having romantic encounters, visiting important sites of US working class history and listening to car radio news accounts of the unravelling events of the Hungarian Revolution.
- Oil! - Loose source for the film There Will Be Blood, Oil! pits oil tycoon father against socialist sympathetic son in the midst of the Teapot Dome Scandal and unionising trouble on the fields.
- The Jungle - Sinclair's undercover journalism-cum-novel about the conditions of America's meat packing industry and the effect it had on those that worked it.
- The Grapes of Wrath - Steinbeck's realist masterpiece looking at the plight of a family of tenant farmers forced to leave Oklahoma during the Great Depression.
- In Dubious Battle - Story about two Communists who set out to organise a strike of seasonal fruit pickers in California.
- Of Mice and Men - Classic story of George Milton and Lennie Small, two migrant farm workers travelling around the US searching for work during the Great Depression.
- Standing Fast - A story of an interlinking group of radicals spanning from before World War II, through the war and then into the early 1960s, including a fictionalised account of the 1946 Oakland general strike.
- Johnny Got his Gun - Excellent working class anti-war novel by once the once-blacklisted Dalton Trumbo, following the internal monologue of a WWI soldier who wakes up mute and brutally injured.
- Slaughterhouse-Five - Vonnegut's darkly humourous novel recounting the story of an ill-prepared soldier and the grim reality of the Second World War.
- Jailbird - Story of a man recently released from prison after serving time for his role in the Watergate scandal, while discussing the history of the American labour movement, political system and the 'Red Scare' of the late 1950s.
- Player Piano - Vonnegut's novel about a permanantly unemployed working class, dispossessed by mangerial engineers and automation.
- The Black Ball - short story about attempts to organise workers across colour lines in the segregated Southern United States.
- The Invisible Man - Novel about a black working class man who leaves the segregation south to make it in Harlem. Deals with racism and class conflict in a series of odd jobs and unemployment. Also deals heavily with how the Communist party and Black Nationalists interact with and exploit racial tensions and class conflict.
- The Unknown Industrial Prisoner - Grimly humourous portrayal of life on an oil refinery, by an ex-refinery worker, from the high towers from which a worker falls to his death to the secret hiding places the workers keep for themselves.
- The House that was Eureka - Novel about the Unemployed Workers' Movement & anti-eviction riots Sydney during the great depression, which flashes back and forth to Sydney in the 1980s, making contemporary links between the eras.
- The Watcher and the Watched - Working class novel set in 1960s Newcastle, in which we watch a working class community get ripped apart from the point of view of Tim 'Tiger' Mason, who eventually confronts a slum landlord and joins a young Asian immigrant to confront racism.
- Kiddar's Luck - Vivid autobiography about his life growing up next to the train-sheds his father worked in on the outskirts of Newcastle, the book is a natural depiction of a working class boy growing up, seen through the eyes of the socialist adult he became.
- Rape of the Fair Country - Early union organising and chartist inspired revolts in the Welsh mining heartlands, amidst the backdrop of the industrial revolution. First in the Mortymer trilogy.
- Hard Times - Dickens' work highlighting the difficult economic and social conditions of the working class, described as a "passionate revolt against the whole industrial order of the modern world" (though also containing anti-trade union sentiments).
- A Tale of Two Cities - Novel about the plight of the French peasantry in the years leading up to the French revolution, and the parallels with life in London.
- Jude the Obscure - The story of Jude Fawley, a young working-class man whose dreams of becoming a scholar are destroyed by class society.
- Peace, love and petrol bombs - This semi-autobiographical novel traces the political and personal growth of a young Scottish burger-flipper who with his coworkers begins to fight back against his employer: a multinational fast food chain.
- How Late is Was, How Late - Novel following Sammy, a shoplifter and ex-convict from Glasgow who, after a two-day drinking binge, gets into a fight with some plainclothes policemen in which he is severely beaten and left blind. The story explores how he comes to terms with his new disability.
- The Busconductor Hines - Story of a busconducter living in a bedsit, bored of his job and fully aware his plans to emigrate to Australia won't come to anything. However, he takes solace in his wife and child, and his eccentric, anarchic imagination.
- You've Got to be Careful in the Land of the Free - Jeremiah Brown is flying back home to Scotland tomorrow. But life is dangerous in the US for a anarchist immigrant foreigner and with just one beer turning into a night out, it's a wonder if he'll make it back alive.
- A Chancer - Tammas is a loner, a drifter, a chancer. Stuck in dull jobs and finding nothing he wants to do, he dreams of moving to Manchester or New Zealand or the Highlands, anywhere but Glasgow.
- Mo Said She Was Quirky - Helen's on her way back from work when she sees a homeless man that reminds her of her long lost brother and sends her into a reverie. 24 hours following the thoughts of a mother, a girlfriend and a croupier.
- Hangover Square - Late 30s novel following George Harvey Bone and his similarly unemployed feckless acquaintances in and out of Earl's Court pubs, with war and changing attitudes looming.
Alexander McArthur and H. Kingsley Long
- No Mean City - A book hated by the Glasgow City fathers and the regular bookshops refused to sell it, yet has sold millions of copies: one brother commits to the class struggle, the other becomes the razor king of the Gorbals – it’s life in the raw (and not too far from the truth).
- Docherty - The author uses his memory of growing up in an Ayrshire mining community to tell the story of Tom Docherty and of lives filled with human worth.
- Homage to Catalonia - Orwell's famous 1938 account of the Spanish Revolution and Civil War, from his point of view as a volunteer in the POUM militia, with vivid descriptions of classless anarchist Barcelona following the revolution and terrorised Stalinist Barcelona after the counter-revolution.
- Animal Farm, a fairy story - Erroneously considered a damning of collectivism, Orwell's allegorical fantasy is a critique of the Bolshevist and Stalinist regimes set on a farm as animals attempt to create a society.
- 1984 - A world with constant surveillance, perpetual war and a militarised police state, George Orwell's most famous novel was a warning against totalitarian governments, all the more relevant now then when it was written.
- Down and Out in Paris and London - Tramping memoirs from Orwell, where he worked in Paris as a dishwasher and then travelled around London, going from one bedsit to another.
- The Road to Wigan Pier - Orwell's examinations of the conditions for the working class in the north of England prior to World War Two and how he became a socialist.
- Keep the aspidistra flying - Not wanting to be concerned with money or a safe life typified by a house with an aspidistra plant, a copywriter quits his job to become an artist.
- GB84 - Fictional portrayal of the 1984-85 UK miners' strike, describing the insidious workings of the British government and MI5, the coalfield battles and the dwindling powers of the miners' union.
- The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner - Short story about a teenager from a blue-collar area of Nottingham with bleak prospects who turns to long-distance running to escape both emotionally and physically from his situation.
- Swing Hammer Swing - Novel set during 1960s Glasgow, in which Thomas Clay faces his mounting problems: his wife in the maternity hospital prematurely while they await news of their transfer to high-rise housing, or for his tenement to be demolished beneath his feet. With no job and his novel still unpublished, he staggers from crisis to crisis.
- The Devil's Carousel - Story of a Scottish car factory and the strange characters in it, including a smelly militant shop steward and 'the Martians': experts and managers who convene high above the shop floor and decide how to build cars without letting the work force in on the secret.
- The ragged trousered philanthropists - A Marxist critique of society dressed up as a novel, Ragged Trousered Philanthrophists follows construction worker Frank Owen trying to convince others about socialism, a figure based on Tressell himself.
- Movern Callar - Movern Callar arrives home to find her boyfriend dead on the floor. She grieves by getting mortal on nights out, shifts at the supermarket, Krautrock mixtapes and sunbathing in Spain.
- Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit - A young English woman’s escape from her religious family told with great sensitivity – a tale self liberation.
- The Good Soldier Švejk - Satirical anti-war novel in which the absurdity and hypocrisy of the military, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the church are repeatedly revealed through the main character's enthusiasm for obeying authority.
- The Trial - Franz Kafka's seminal novel, telling the tale of a respectable functionary in a bank, who is suddenly arrested and must defend his innocence against a charge about which he can get no information.
- Rossum's Universal Robots - a stage play about a factory that has invented a new, more efficient worker called a Robot (first usage of the term). The robots replace the global labour force but things quickly go wrong and the Robots rise up against their masters.
- Germinal - Zola's masterpiece exposing the inhuman conditions of miners in France in 1860s. This powerful novel follows a young worker who enters a mining community and leads a strike against pay cuts.
- November 1918: A German Revolution - Four volume work on the German revolution of 1918-1919.
- The treasure of the Sierra Madre - B. Traven's best known novel about three men prospecting for gold in the mountains of Mexico, and the things it drives them to do.
- The cotton pickers - B Traven's novel about migrant labourers, poverty, crappy jobs, and the occasional successful strike in 1920s Mexico.
- The death ship - Story of a sailor who loses his papers and, unable to prove his very existence, ends up working on a "death ship" destined to be sunk for the insurance money.
- Assembly Line - Short story about a New York businessman who meets a Mexican peasant basket maker, whose talent is perfect for exploitation.
- Out of the Night - The story of a German revolutionary who, after the failed German revolution, becomes an agent for the Communist International, fights fascism in Europe, gets captured by the Gestapo and eventually loses his faith in Stalin.
- The Kaiser Goes, the Generals Remain fictionalised account of the Sailors revolt in 1918 and the abdication of the Kaiser. Based on the authors own experience as a sailor in the Imperial High Sea's Fleet.
- The Country Girls - A superbly written and almost true story of how a young Irish woman escapes conservative Ireland to live life as she pleases – the book was banned and publicly burned in the Irish Republic.
- Strumpet City - Novel following the lives of a dozen different characters as they are swept up in the tumultuous events of Dublin between 1907 and 1914, including the 1913 Dublin Lockout.
- The Unseen - Novel looking at the Italian Autonomia movement of the 1960s-70s through the eyes of a single working-class protagonist, from high-school rebellion, squatting, setting up a free radio station to arrest and the brutalities of imprisonment.
- Two Short Stories - The first story, Let a thousand hands reach out to pick up the gun, is a montage of newspaper reports of the death of Mara Cagol, one of the founders of the Red Brigades. The second, FIAT, is a first-hand account of work (or its refusal) at the infamous FIAT plant in Turin, Italy.
Luther Blisset/Wu Ming
- Q - Set during the 16th Century Reformation, a radical Christian heretic takes part in rebellions - such as the German Peasants' War - against the powers of both Protestant and Catholic churches.
- Altai - Sequel to Q, in which characters from the first book come back to settle old scores, as the Republic of Venice and the whole 16th Century world order seem ready to crumble.
- Manituana - Fantastically researched historical fiction about the Iroquois, a group of native American tribes who side with the British during the American war in independence.
- 54 - Hollywood actors, cold warriors, mobsters, drug dealers and homing pigeons. What will Yugoslavian president Tito do, now that Joe Stalin is dead? What is the hidden link between Lucky Luciano in his Italian exile, Cary Grant in schizophrenic combat with himself and a stolen TV set which turns out to be self-conscious and sensitive to boot?
- The Path to the Spiders' Nests - The story of a cobbler's apprentice in a town on the Ligurian coast, who steals a pistol from a Nazi sailor, and becomes involved in the Italian Resistance.
- Accidental death of an anarchist - Dario Fo's best known play, based on the events surrounding the 1969 murder of Giuseppe Pinelli in police custody.
- The Conformist - Story set in Rome and Paris between 1938 and 1943, Marcello, a fascist spy, accepts an assignment from Mussolini to kill his former mentor. The novel is a case study in the psychology of fascism that express itself in the need to conform and be "normal".
- Fontamara - Novel describing life in a rural central Italian village, Fontamara, in the 1930s. The people (the Fontamaresi) are poor and unaware of goings on outside their village, exploited by the rich and women are raped by fascists. Eventually one of them, Berardo, tries to lead a rebellion.
- Men and not men - Story set in Milan in 1944 during the Italian Resistance, it tells the story of a partisan code-named "En 2" who organises an ambush against the fascists.
- The White Tiger - A darkly humourous story of a boy from an Indian slum who moves to Delhi and works as the chauffeur for a rich landlord, before killing him and running off with his money.
- A Fine Balance - Story set in Mumbai between 1975 and 1984 during a period of increased government power and crackdowns on civil liberties called 'The Emergency', looking at the changes in Indian society since independence.
- Men Who Live on the Sea - Story about the terrible factory conditions faced by workers processing fish on Japanese factory ships.
- The Prostitute - Short story demonstrating gender tensions within the workers' movement, in which a prostitute asserts her own subjective experience as a working class woman.
- The Crab Cannery Ship - Novel about the harsh lives of workers on crab fishing ships and their struggles against their employers' exploitation.
- Militarized Streets - Novel about the 'Jinan Incident', an early armed clash between Japan and China, and severe military aggression of the Japanese in the incident.
- Miner - Story of a miner's resistance to the authority of his tyrannical employers.
- Heart of a Dog - A scientist implants the testicles and pituitary gland of a recently deceased man into a stray dog, creating a monster. A damning critique of the New Soviet man and the Leninist program, written in 1925 it remained unpublished until 1987.
- The Master and Margarita - The devil comes to destroy the USSR, and only a writer and his lover can stop him.
- Mother - Novel following the radicalisation of an uneducated young Russian woman, which went on to define the genre of Socialist Realism.
- Omon Ra - Omon Krivomazov has always wanted to be an astronaut but not everything is as it seems in the USSR's space program; cosmonauting dead dogs, bikes on the moon and no way out but up.
- Birth of Our Power - Pan-European novel, taking us from the workers' stronghold of Barcelona at the end of the First World War where hopes for revolution are fueled by the news of revolution in Russia.
- Men in Prison - Based on his personal experiences as a political prisoner, Serge describes the brutality of prison life at the beginning of the 20th century.
- Conquered City - Masterpiece describing the defence of Petrograd from the White Armies during the Russian revolution, capturing the atmosphere without the use of a central character.
- The Case of Comrade Tulayev - Masterful fictionalisation of the purges and how they affected the various character types in the political upheaval of Stalinist Russia.
- We - In a country constructed of glass, under complete surveillance and devoid of individuality, D-503 discovers he has a soul and is now in danger.
Good idea! Hemingway needs a
Hemingway needs a big disclaimer though about Bell Tolls, because although the novel is good in Spain he was basically a Stalinist useful idiot.
Few thoughts to add before I go out:
peace, love and petrol bombs
any female/BME authors in this vein people can think of?
Ragged trousered philanthropists
Also, cheers to everyone who
Also, cheers to everyone who contributed to this thread, we tried to include as much of it as possible!
Johnny Got His Gun is an
Johnny Got His Gun is an amazing piece of working class anti-war literature (although the rights video adaption were later bought by Metallica for a music video, so swings and roundabouts...)
This is an interesting book
This is an interesting book list reflecting the taste of the selectors. I thought it curious that the only Scots writer (that I can identify), James Kelman gets two inclusions.
If Glasgow is the focus of the Scottish contribution then the 1935 novel, ‘No Mean City’, written by an unemployed worker Alexander McArthur and H. Kingsley Long (a journalist) surely merits inclusion if only for the book’s historical importance.
Jeff Torrington was Scots as
Jeff Torrington was Scots as well, and a chum of Kelman's. Speaking of the devil, Busconducter Hines is probably his best book, but You've Got to be Careful in the Land of the Free is as good. Dunnae need Kropoptkin when you've got
Outside of Glasgow, Alan Warner from Oban is worth putting up, his Movern Callar especially. As for women, Scotland has produced quite a few; Liz Lochhead, Agnes Owens, A.L Kennedy, Janice Galloway. I've liked Jean Rhys' Good Morning, Midnight which is on here and Lorrie Moore's Anagrams.
I’ll take up your
I’ll take up your recommendations, flaneur, as it’s been a bit since I’ve looked at any Scots stuff – the last was William McIlvanney’s ‘Docherty’ (1973), which was a very good read.
I’ll confess to not reading too many women writers, though I reckoned Jeanette Winterson’s ‘Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit’ (1985) and Edna O’Brien’s ‘Country Girl’ (1960) were definitely worth reading.
Alright guys, so basically,
Alright guys, so basically, all your suggestions are great, especially for me who hasn't read any of the stuff you guys have mentioned.. you guys reckon you'd be up for writing short one-line intros for stuff you reckon should go up in this list? Then we can stick it in after..
Johnny Got His Gun - Anti-war
Johnny Got His Gun - Anti-war novel by once the once-blacklisted Dalton Trumbo, Johnny Got His Gun follows internal monologue of a WWI soldier who wakes up mute and brutally injured.
Catch-22! I'll write an intro
Catch-22! I'll write an intro when I get a chance
No Mean City by Alexander
No Mean City by Alexander McArthur and H. Kingsley Long
A book hated by the Glasgow City fathers, the regular bookshops refused to sell it and it was not allowed on library shelves – yet it has never been out of print since 1935 and has sold about three quarters of a million copies - one brother commits to the class struggle - the other (the main character) becomes the razor king of the Gorbals – it’s life in the raw (and not too far from the truth).
Just an observation-
Just an observation- Hemingway got a big disclaimer (and rightfully so) but I feel that mention should also be made of Bukowski's hateful approach to women. I know it's a pretty obvious comment, but it should be noted.
I will come back in due
I will come back in due course about chinese novels, though I suspect Ba Jin and Lu Xun might be of some help.
Un Lun Dun China Mieville
Young adult sci-fi. Environmentally themed book, where the protagonist enters a world of junk that has seeped out of our world. Ridicules the reactionary cliches which dominate the sci-fi and fantasy genre.
An Inspector Calls JB Priestley
A popular play set in preWWI when an inspector visits a well-to-do family and asks them to account for their behaviour towards someone recently deceased. A scathing attack of bourgeois values commences.
Rape of the Fair Country Alexander Cordell
Early union organising and chartist inspired revolts in the Welsh mining heartlands, amidst the backdrop of the industrial revolution. First in the Mortymer trilogy.
Alone in Berlin Hans Fallada
Having broke with the regime Otto and Anna Quangel take on a personal propaganda campaign against Nazi Germany. Based loosely on a true story.
The Iron Heel Jack London
Technically a dystopian sci-fi novel. The character agitates and struggles for a socialist revolution against an oligarchy. Envisages fascism, despite being written many years prior to its advent.
Spartacus Howard Fast
A fictionalised account of the famous slave revolt. This inspired the Kurt Douglas film and the book was a best seller. Not bad considering the book had to be self published because the author was blacklisted.
Werner Harding wrote: Just an
hi, yes good point. We have put disclaimers about Bukowski's misogyny on the pages for the books themselves but we should put one here as well
British Jeanette Winterson -
Jeanette Winterson - Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
A young English woman’s escape from her religious family told with great sensitivity – a tale self liberation.
William McIlvanney – Docherty
The author uses his memory of growing up in an Ayrshire mining community to tell the story of Tom Docherty and of lives filled with human worth.
Edna O’Brien - Country Girl
A superbly written and almost true story of how a young Irish woman escapes conservative Ireland to live life as she pleases – the book was banned and I believe publicly burned in the Irish Republic.
James Kelman - You've Got to
James Kelman - You've Got to be Careful in the Land of the Free
Jeremiah Brown is flying back home to Scotland tomorrow. But life is dangerous in the US for a anarchist immigrant foreigner and out drinking alone, it's a wonder if he'll get back.
Tammas is a loner, a drifter, a chancer. Stuck in dull jobs and finding nothing he wants to do, he dreams of moving to Manchester or New Zealand or the Highlands, anywhere but Glasgow.
Alan Warner - Movern Callar
Movern Callar arrives home to find her boyfriend dead on the floor. She grieves by getting mortal on nights out, shifts at the supermarket, Krautrock mixtapes and sunbathing in Spain.
Lorrie Moore - Anagrams
Benna leads different lives, English teacher, nightclub singer, aerobics instructor. She's a mother and she's never had children. The stories and settings shift around but all are a darkly comic look at being a 30 something woman in America.
Russia Maxim Gorky – My
Maxim Gorky – My Childhood
A pal of Lenin writes a corker of a book – after losing his parents he experienced a poverty-stricken childhood - at five he was taken to live with his grandfather who regularly beat him - his grandmother is the heroine of the book which is filled with characters described by a curious and often fearful boy - it's simply a wonderful read unfortunately the rest of the trilogy is poor by comparison.
plenty of stuff in German
plenty of stuff in German here: http://nemesis.marxists.org/
there is Adam Scharrer's interesting semi-autobiographical novel Vaterlandslose Gesellen (Fellows without Fatherland) about rank & file activists during the First World War, don't know if it is translated ... Scharrer was a leading member of the KAPD but later became a fellow traveler of the KPD and was commemorated with a stamp in Eastern Germany ...
another German proletarian novelist who was in the AAU and later a Stalinist was Hans Marchwitza, he also got a stamp
Pretty much any play by Caryl
Pretty much any play by Caryl Churchill (British) is interesting, and worth looking out for. In particular, with a very basic theme for each:
Owners (1972) - Obsessions with power.
Cloud Nine (1979) - A farce about sexual politics in an Imperialist mindset.
Serious Money (1987) - Comedy about excesses in the financial world.
Softcops (1984) - Surreal play set in 19th-century France about government attempts to depoliticize illegal acts.
Far Away (2000) -The fear imposed by a government upon its citizens, in a surreal world where everything in nature is at war with each other. A kind of surreal 1984.
While I'm on plays, I'd like to include one of my favourites, Arthur Miller's (American) The Crucible (1953) - "A dramatization of the Salem witch trials [...] an allegory of McCarthyism, when the U.S. government blacklisted accused communists".
Another play I've
Another play I've remembered... Bertolt Brecht's (German) - Mother Courage and Her Children (Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder) (1939) - One of nine plays that Brecht wrote in an attempt to counter the rise of Fascism and Nazism. An anti-war play, that also deals with the profiteering current that runs through all wars. A great example of Brecht's "Epic" theatre style too. Good stuff.
I wouldn't have put "Jude the
I wouldn't have put "Jude the Obscure" in there myself - i remember studying it at school and coming away with the feeling that the book was all about 'don't try and rise above your station, or the Fates will conspire against you'.
I know that it supposedly shows the cruelty of the system, but there's a fair bit of cruelty imposed by the writer as well.
As a young working class man I found it very dispiriting and depressing to read.
Given the title working class
Given the title working class I wasn't sure if this would qualify, but Beijing Coma by Ma Jian is interesting. Its a fictionalised version of the Tienanmen square incident but also about the PRC in the 1980's from the point of view of a student from an average urban Chinese family and how they deal with the government and the new market reforms.
As for the Italian section
As for the Italian section I'd add:
Men and not men
Story set in Milan in 1944 during the Italian Resistance, it tells the story of a partisan code-named "En 2" who organises an ambush against the fascists.
This novel describes the life in a rural village, Fontamara, in central Italy in the thirties. The people (the Fontamaresi) are poor and unaware of what is going on outside their village, they are exploited by the richest, women are raped by fascists. Eventually one of them, Berardo, tries to lead a rebellion.
Story set in Rome and Paris between 1938 and 1943, Marcello, the main character, accepts an assignment from Mussolini to kill his former mentor. The novel is a case study in the psychology of fascism that in Marcello express itself in the need to conform and be "normal".
I'm not sure this last book falls into the category of working class literature (it doesn't actually deals with the working class itself but I think it could still be a very interesting reading...)
I feel a lot more could be added to the Italian section, mostly because there are so many books on the Italian Resistance. For instance, The House on the Hill by Cesare Pavese or Johnny the Partisan by Beppe Fenoglio. But since I haven't read these two novels myself I didn't feel like including them. I'll make up for this soon anyway and might come back to this thread...
What about All Quiet on the
What about All Quiet on the Western Front. It's been probably close to 15 years since I read it and I can't actually remember if there any substantial working class content in it?
Chilli Sauce wrote: What
Vaterlandslose Gesellen by Adam Scharrer was intended by the author as a "proletarian answer" to the pacifist Remarque
Any good? Agree with the
Any good? Agree with the author's assessment?
too long ago, that I read the
too long ago, that I read the two novels, ... but there are from the same period proletarian novels which like Remarque's one do feature non-proletarian protagonists as heroes, e.g. Karl Grünberg's "Brennende Ruhr", Scharrer can both politically and artistically labelled "workerist"
Wiki list http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proletarian_literature
I checked my hard drive and
I checked my hard drive and it turns out I have a few of these in epub or pdf formats. I'll add them to the library.
Excellent stuff, reddebrek!
Excellent stuff, reddebrek! Look forward to it.. thanks as well to flaneur whose been adding loads of these to the library as well!
Ed wrote: Excellent stuff,
Sure thing, I will say this though, most of these I'm adding I either haven't read or did years ago so if anyone who has read them and wants to write a better intro can feel free.
I also found a torrent containing epub's of every book by John Steinbeck http://pirateproxy.net/torrent/6806244/The_John_Steinbeck_Collection___%28epub_retail%29 And I think there's a few more that could be added
Edit, I found a pdf of Conquered City, unfortunately its one of those new ones that won't let you read it without connecting to Amazon. However Marxists.org has transcribed the book so I'm in the process of creating a pdf for it.
* The Life Story and Real
* The Life Story and Real Adventures of the Poor Man of Toggenburg (first published 1788/89) by Ulrich Bräker, the life story of a 18th century man from poor peasant background from Northern Switzerland, who worked as a farm worker and a gun powder worker, than became a mercenary in the Prussian army, deserted and became a intermediary in the cloth trade, an unique document from a member of the rural underclass of that period
Just seen this thread. The
Just seen this thread. The list is great and has a lot of my favourite books on it but I'm a bit bothered that it's very very male.
America: Marge Piercy, Woman on the Edge of Time. A woman imprisoned in a mental hospital after fighting back against violence in her family travels to an anarchist society in the future. The novel cuts between the anarchist future and her life in the present and explores how the anarchist society works.
Also from America, Rosa Guy,
Also from America, Rosa Guy, "Edith Jackson"
I’d forgotten about Marge
I’d forgotten about Marge Percy’s Vida, 1980.
Marge Percy – Vida
Set in the 1980s a woman member of a 1960s Weatherman type organisation is still living undercover - still pursued by the authorities – her story is told in flashbacks – tense and enjoyable.
Sorry it seems I got a little
Sorry it seems I got a little ahead of myself Marxists.org has only transcribed the first four chapters of Conquered City. I'll keep an eye out to see if they finish, until then if anyone wants those chapters as a sample its here
On Kafka, it might be worth
On Kafka, it might be worth including The Metamorphosis as it could be read as an allegory on alienated labor.
What about Death of A Salesman? I've never actually read it, but it is about the alienation of the American dream IIRC.
Chilli Sauce wrote: On Kafka,
In what way? It seemed pretty clear it was about disability/illness…
I never really understood
I never really understood what ‘Metamorphosis’ was about. It’s open to several interpretations in the introduction I read.
In Kafka’s, ‘The Castle’, however the meaning is clear I think - when you are young and confident you may get within reach of your goal – however if thwarted, you then become devious attempting to achieve your objective by oblique means and by doing so you then play into the hands of your opponents – by ‘playing their game’ the objective you desire recedes. And as time passes and you find diversion in other activities.
I've added a few more, I've
I've added a few more, I've also found a site that has some interesting fiction http://www.socialiststories.net/ including some by African writers. Though English is a second language for the site runners and their layout isn't very good. Plus something about their "manifesto" and site comments seems a bit weird.
Nice one for flagging that up
Nice one for flagging that up Reddebrek, the site looks really good.. and thanks for all the additions, so far, they're much appreciated!
The best novelist I've
The best novelist I've discovered in recent years is Magnus Mills, especially his first one, "The restraint of beasts." This is a fantastic novel about the drudgery and petty jealousies of working class life, as two Scottish fencers and their English foreman travel the country putting up fences. And accidentally killing a load of people on the way, in a series of increasingly-bizarre industrial accidents.
His later books are less realist, and have a fairy-tale/dreamlike quality. There's "The scheme for full employment," which is about an imaginary ultra-workfare scheme, where people are put to work driving vans from one depot to another. The vans contain spare parts for the vans. There's a strike in there, when the workers who want to take their non-jobs seriously get pissed off with the ones who skive off or run their own businesses on the side.
And there's also "Explorers of the new century," which is about two competing expeditions, looking to transport some mules to the remotest part of the world and leave them there. (Can't really say any more about that one without massive spoilers).
Anyway, I think he's great -- a real discovery.
Gordon DeMarco's Riley
Gordon DeMarco's Riley Kovachs private-eye series: October Heat, Frisco Blues and The Canvas Prison. He also wrote Elvis in Aspic (the one book I haven't read) and the Edinburgh based Murder at the Fringe.
Here's his obituary from 1995.
Days of Hope by Jim Allen.
Days of Hope by Jim Allen. Cracking book version (novel) of the excellent 1970s TV serial. Set during WW1 and the General Strike,
I'm going to show the film of
I'm going to show the film of Johnny the Partisan in a couple of months, but I can't find the English subtitles. If anyone has the English release or a torrent with an .srt file I'd be grateful if they could get in touch with me.
Trust read GB84, its pretty
Trust read GB84, its pretty good, it does an excellent job cataloguing most of the intrigues and repressive tactics by the government, but it also shows the problems with Trade Unions, (the excuses given for no support, and explains quite briefly there role as mediators).
In addition to balance the plotting and back room deals of the powerful including the NUM the first page of each chapter is a stream of conciousness by one of two Miners showing their conditions and what they were going through on the picket lines and slag heaps.
Toni Morrison - outstanding
Toni Morrison - outstanding novelist telling stories of working class experience:
The Bluest Eye
and of course Beloved
All from a Blackwoman's perspective, writing as a Blackwoman.
Louise Erdrich, outstanding woman writer of Ojibwa and German cultural heritage, novelist and poet. Her novels describe contemporary and historical experiences of indigenous Americans and the non-indigenous people living on or near the fictional reservation where all her novels are set.
The Bingo Palace - on a backdrop of the place where federal and reservation law on gambling intersect
The Beet Queen
The last report on the Miracles at Little No Horse
Tracks - which opens with the unforgettable line "We started falling with the snow, and like the snow we continued to fall", and yet here she is, two hundred years later, their descendant, alive and telling the tale. Inspiring and awesome.
The Round House, 2012 (I think, Pulitzer Prize winner or nominee) tells the story of a community activist raped on reservation land, her story and the collision of reservation and federal law.
One thing I was wondering, do
One thing I was wondering, do people think that Moby Dick should be in here? Reading it it struck me that it should be, as it is a superbly written book from the perspective of whaling workers, detailing their working life and conditions
First time I've seen this -
First time I've seen this - just followed a link from Steven from another post. It's a great list. It's also nice to see that after all these years The Button is still right on the money: Magnus Mills is brilliant and The Restraint of Beasts (at least) should definitely make the list. Marge Piercy is another necessary suggestion.
I'm surprised by the love in for Zola - his portrayal of Souvarine fits with that long tradition of anarchist bogey men: ‘He threw away his last cigarette and walked off into darkness without so much as a glance behind. His shadowy form dwindled and merged into the night. He was bound for the unknown, over yonder, calmly going to deal violent destruction wherever dynamite could be found to blow up cities and men.’ (for more on this: https://ddjohnston.wordpress.com/essays/politics/ )
There are a few more I could add - a book I particularly rate is Aleksander Hemon's The Lazarus Project. It's by and about a Bosnian-American author who left Sarajevo cause of the war, who is researching a real historical figure, Lazarus Averbuch. Averbuch was a young Jew who escaped the 1903 Kishinev pogrom only to be shot as an anarchist by the chief of police in Chicago in 1908. The portrayal of post-Haymarket Chicago, and the paranoia surrounding Emma Goldman and anarchism, is thoughtful, as are the book's musings on displacement, war, and poverty.
As for Moby Dick, it probably deserves to go on any list of books. That said, it's difficult to define what counts as 'working class fiction'. I had a go here https://libcom.org/library/working-class-fiction but the description above is clearer and more succinct: 'literature with a focus on work and accurate representations of working class life, culture and resistance to power.' MD certainly satisfies the first part but how much does it show resistance to power? IIRC there is the story of a mutiny on another ship but though people try to dissuade Ahab, I guess the version in which the crew ties him up until he stops being such a nutter wouldn't have made such a great book!
Finally, there was a book I read a while ago... The Deconstruction of Professor Thrub. I forget the author but it was genius. Like, absolute genius. ;)
DD wrote: Finally, there was
Yeah! And Peace, Love & Petrol Bombs.
I've added a couple more, and
I've added a couple more, and I think another interesting book to check out is `How I killed Margaret Thatcher` its about a working class family in Dudley with the main focus being the eight year old son Sean. Its about the effects of the 80's and how a child understands them and tries to resist.
Great thread, it was marked
Great thread, it was marked as read but it's new to me!
More links please :)
Native Son - Richard Price, a fairly deterministic look at how blacks are shepherded into roles and have little choice between servitude and criminality and the help of white revolutionaries isn't particularly helpful and even when it might be the central character is unable to really understand or accept it.
The other Richard Price writes novels with some really good portrayals of working class life and culture, not a particularly great novelist but readable. Blood brothers, The Wanderers, Lush LIfe, Ladies Man.
The Caine Mutiny - interesting look at the clash of cultures and the nature of authority although ultimately not having any real radical content.
Steven. wrote: One thing I
Need you ask?
It was such a monumental work of fiction that it inspired CLR James' equally monumental work of scholarship: Mariners, Renegades and Castaways: The Story of Herman Melville and the World We Live In.
Also, Melville's novella Benito Cereno about a revolt on a slave ship.
Been meaning to add John
Been meaning to add John Sommerfield to the list.. he was a CP member until 1956 and served with the International Brigades in Spain (though his book about that, Volunteer in Spain, was slammed by Orwell as basically being a CP fiction).
The books of his that I've read are May Day (about a fictional general strike in 1930s London and even though he was a CP member, its basically him thumbing his nose at the Soviet Writers' Congress about what 'proper' prole lit should be) and North West Five (about a young working-class couple trying to find housing during the post-WW2 housing crisis).. there's also another by him called Trouble in Porter Street, which I've been meaning to read.. the CP asked him to write a pamphlet about organising a rent strike but he wrote a novel about one instead..
Two books which opened my
Two books which opened my eyes to sexuality and race were James Baldwin’s books, Giovanni’s Room (1956) and Another Country (1960). He fictionalizes ‘personal’ questions of alienation and inequality based on race, sexuality and social class. Giovanni’s Room is generally regarded as the superior text though I enjoyed Another Country more. One of the characters reminded me of Miles Davis.
Richard Wright wrote Native
Richard Wright wrote Native Son
For the Slovenian section:
For the Slovenian section: Ivan Cankar, Yerney's Justice (1907), tr. Louis Adamic, Vanguard Press, New York, 1926. "Cankar is undoubtedly the greatest writer Yugoslavia has yet produced."--from the Forward to the Vanguard Press edition. The story of a "pathetic, naive pilgrim in quest of justice" with an apocalyptic conclusion.
Russian: Maxim Gorki, The Life of a Useless Man (1907), tr. Moura Budberg, Doubleday & Co., Garden City, 1972. A novel about a feckless loser who ends up becoming an informer working for the Czar's secret police in the lead-up to the 1905 revolution.
German: Hans Fallada, Little Man, What Now? (1933?), Academy Chicago Publishers, Chicago, 1983. A salesman at a department store struggles to survive with his wife and baby in Germany during the depression on the eve of Hitler's rise to power.
Some American "ethnic" novels:
Michael Gold (Itzok Isaac Granich), Jews without Money (1930), Avon Books, New York, 1965. Gold was a lifelong member of the US Communist Party, but this book is very good. No overt propaganda, just lots of evocative narrative and remarkable descriptive passages. About Jewish immigrants in the lower east side of New York around 1900, written from the perspective of a precocious child: "... a prototype for the American proletarian novel", according to the Wikipedia entry for Michael Gold.
Some books by John Fante ("... a lifetime influence on my writing"--Charles Bukowski) about Italian immigrants and their children, and their lousy jobs and disappointments and dreams, in the United States during the Depression era:
John Fante, The Road to Los Angeles (1936), Ecco, New York, 1985.
John Fante, Wait Until Spring, Bandini (1938),Ecco, New York, 2002.
John Fante, Ask the Dust (1939), Harper Perennial, New York, 2006. Introduction by Charles Bukowski.
John Fante, 1933 Was a Bad Year (1985), Ecco, New York, 2002.
Thanks for the additional
Thanks for the additional suggestions everyone. I found these couple from Japan as well:
Hayama Yoshiki - The Prostitute
The Crab Cannery Ship: and Other Novels of Struggle - Kobayashi Takiji
The Milagro Beanfield War by
The Milagro Beanfield War by John Nichols
Finished it a few months ago, I really tried to stretch it out cause I didn't want it to end.
The fictional town of Milagro is suffering from a long, slow decline when a unexpected act of defiance, in the form of a renegade beanfield, galvanizes to community to fight back against their disenfranchisement.
Someone, please read it!
Alias Recluse wrote: Some
Anyone else old enough to remember those original Black Sparrow Press versions, with those wonderful rough paper (don't know what you call it) covers? My first was Dreams from Bunker Hill, that I randomly found new at a bookshop. I eventually savoured all his books. All of them should be listed.
Robert Redford made a movie
Robert Redford made a movie of 'The Milagro Beanfield War' (1988). I've not seen it though it had generally good reviews.
Thanks, Auld bod. I'm waiting
Thanks, Auld bod. I'm waiting to have someone to watch it with, then I'll throw it up in the movies thread. It had completely slipped my mind.
For the American section:
For the American section: John Dos Passos, U.S.A. (a trilogy consisting of The 42nd Parallel (1930), Nineteen Nineteen (1932) and The Big Money (1936), The Modern Library, New York, n.d. A panoramic depiction of life in the USA between the late 1890s and the 1920s in the form of an experimental novel incorporating impressionistic snippets from current events, excerpts from the biographies of the famous men of the era, and dramatic narrative presenting the lives of various stereotyped personalities as they ruthlessly make lots of money or are crushed by capitalism. Not exclusively focused on working class life, but its most sympathetic character is a member of the IWW and it includes famous quotes from Debs and other socialist and labor leaders, a cameo appearance by Big Bill Haywood, strikes, the Mexican Revolution, the lynching of Wesley Everest, etc. I have only read about half of the first volume but I think it merits inclusion in the list.
You know I'm a little
You know I'm a little surprised Victor Hugo's Les Mis isn't up here. Its got its problems to be sure, but its a five volume work about the tyranny of poverty, the corruption of the ruling class, the brutality of authority etc.
It also goes to great lengths to condemn prison conditions and the institution itself, attacks the Church despite frequent assertions that God does actually exist, condemns prostitution whilst defending sex workers, and makes one a major character, packs in detailed accounts of the French Revolution, the Revolution of 1830, the insurrection of 1832 and the Revolution of 1848 and defends the very concept of revolution. It also comments on early Socialism and Communism in a fairly positive manner and has a major villain be an authoritarian to the core. Over all I think the political message of the book in modern eyes would be Social Democratic but there's plenty of works much further from our own views included on the list.
Has anyone read Cwmardy? It
Has anyone read Cwmardy? It looks good but would like a second opinion before adding it: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2147058.Cwmardy_We_Live
Not read it myself but have
Not read it myself but have read about it and would say it definitely should go in.. there are a bunch of novels from the 1930s around the Prole Lit movement that should be included tbh.. and some of the postwar black writers as well.. shame I've no time these days.. :(
Jules Vailles: The
Jules Vailles: The Insurrectionist should probably be listed.
Moleskin Joe, by Patrick
Moleskin Joe, by Patrick Macgill
Revolution!, by Leon
Revolution!, by Leon Garfield
I found a copy of Ignacio
I found a copy of Ignacio Silone's Fontamara! only its in Esperanto, well I have also found a preview in Urdu.
I have some news about the
I have some news about the Japanese section, Militarised streets has been released in English with a collection of Kuroshima's short stories call A Flock of Swirling Crows and other proletarian writings, as has the Crab Cannery Ship and other novels of struggle.
It may also be worth adding Tatsuzō Ishikawa's Soldiers Alive, it documents his experiences as a journalist attached to a unit that carried out the Nanking massacre. It describes in detail the brutalities inflicted upon the Chinese population under occupation and the state of the soldiers. A quarter of the text was censored before publication, the magazine that published it was shut down and Ishikawa was given a prison sentence.
Reddebrek wrote: I have some
sounds good. You are okay to edit it in?
Yo, so I've been thinking of
Yo, so I've been thinking of rejigging this guide, basically coz I don't think separating writers into national groups is particularly useful (i.e. some were born in one country but did all their writing in another, some countries have just one writer in, not to mention we're internationalists not trying to create a 'national literary canon', etc).
Instead, I was thinking of organising the list alphabetically by author, with a one-sentence intro about the author and then their works (maybe in date order) with intros/explanations included above.
What do people think? I was going to just do it but I think it might be a bit of a big job and I don't want to do it only for people to say it's shite when I finish it.. ;)
maybe time period would be
maybe time period would be useful?
Yeah, I was thinking that but
Yeah, I was thinking that but I think it'd be hard to divide the periods up in a way that wouldn't end up with the same author in two periods (like, if you have post- and pre-WW2 you end up with Homage to Catalonia separate from Animal Farm and 1984) or, on the other hand, the periods being either too big (like 19th Century, 20th Century etc). Or maybe that doesn't matter?
Did you have a specific way of doing it in mind? Like time period then books in alphabetical order? A long list of authors in alphabetical order might actually be a bit too much to deal with for people browsing for something to read..
Or another idea: divided by
Or another idea: divided by time period, then alphabetically by author, then by date published and if the same author is in two periods then bollocks to it, it's not a big deal, is it? Could maybe mention it (comment by Animal Farm and 1984 could say 'read Homage to Catalonia!')..
Time periods could be: 19th Century, pre-WW2, post-WW2 to 1980, 1980-1999, 21st Century.
What do you think?
I think no one system of
I think no one system of categorisation is perfect.
Assuming that the aim is to make the list as easy to navigate as possible, why not keep the present listing and have an alphabetical index of authors as a cross reference?
Bukowski, Charles see American
Bulgakov, Mikhail see Russian
This could be supplemented by a time period listing, with authors under their main historical period:
Bukowski, Charles see American
Bulgakov, Mikhail see Russian
Listing by geographic (nation state) recognises that there is often cultural/style similarities in a region. To divide Bukowski and Selby Jr. purely for alphabetical reasons is not very helpful (unless you only know the name).
All these criteria are based on accidents of birth, where someone was born, when they were born and who were their parents.
All three can be useful depending on your starting point
Edward Gaitens Glasgow novel
Edward Gaitens Glasgow novel 'Dance of the Apprentices' should be included.
Published during WW2 - reprinted in the 1980s - this novel is a fictionalized account of the early Socialist movement in Glasgow leading up to, and including, WW1, seen through the eyes of three young men who are firm friends but who in time move in different political directions.
Gaitens, himself, was a conscientious objector during WW1.
You could add Planète sans
You could add Planète sans visa by Jean Malaquais to this.