The Guardian's Top Ten Absurd Classics

Michael Foley lists absurd classics of the 20th Century
Johnny Murphy (Estragon) and Barry McGovern (Vladimir) in Waiting For Godot at the Barbican in London. Photograph: Tristram Kenton

Samuel Beckett, Franz Kafka and Albert Camus all find a place in Michael Foley's top ten list of absurd classics. Here's a snippet:
Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett: Kafka gave the quest saga a modern twist by having unexceptional seekers who are always frustrated – the quest story without a hero or a conclusion. Beckett took this a stage further. Godot is a quest saga without even a quest. The two tramps, thoroughly modern men, can't be bothered to embark on a quest and just wait around for meaning to come to them.


The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus: This is the finest theoretical work on absurdity. Camus compares the human condition to the fate of Sisyphus, eternally condemned to push a rock up a hill, a fable that will resonate with all those obliged to work for a living. But Camus argues, convincingly, that Sisyphus can be happy with his rock. The book is short, exquisitely well-written, and full of sentences that should be on coffee mugs, T-shirts and fridge magnets everywhere.


The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka: The stroke of genius here is that, when Gregor Samsa wakes up as a gigantic insect, he himself experiences only "slight annoyance". It is other people who are disgusted, especially his family. Only the old cleaning woman is unaffected, chatting familiarly to Gregor as he scuttles happily across the ceiling. [Read the article]

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