18 votes

Can you recommend authors who deal with loneliness?

They can be modern or classic (or modern classic:), in any language. Preferably famous and influential authors, but hidden gems are also fine.

Also, I'd really prefer fiction, but philosophical books are all right too.

24 comments

  1. [6]
    krg
    Link
    No Longer Human by Osamu Dazai deals pretty bluntly about feeling alone. (I didn't care for it much, myself. My sympathy for depressive misanthropes extends only so far.) Pilgrim at Tinker Creek...

    No Longer Human by Osamu Dazai deals pretty bluntly about feeling alone.

    (I didn't care for it much, myself. My sympathy for depressive misanthropes extends only so far.)

    Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard is a damn gorgeous book and comes from a healthier, contemplative side of being alone.

    Y'know, I was looking through my shelf hoping to find a book that said "hey! I'm the loneliest book in the world!" and I was surprised that none really stuck out with those themes, to me. I mean, elements of loneliness are pervasive in many of the books I read, but I can't think of any where that's the meat&potatoes. Rather, loneliness exists as a kind of general malaise in 'em.

    OH, I'd say Richard Wright's Black Boy does a pretty good job of describing someone who's alone and alienated. Pretty damn sad, of course.

    3 votes
    1. [3]
      crdpa
      Link Parent
      I highly recommend No Longer Human by Osamu Dazai I can attest to not having too much sympathy for the protagonist and Osamu Dazai itself (it's a semi-autobiography before his death) because he...

      I highly recommend No Longer Human by Osamu Dazai

      I can attest to not having too much sympathy for the protagonist and Osamu Dazai itself (it's a semi-autobiography before his death) because he was a shitty person, but the book goes deep in the mind of someone so troubled.

      He was pretty fucked up and he ended up destroying other people's lives too.

      Anyway. It's awesome and really well written. The movie is nice too, but the book is way better.

      2 votes
      1. [2]
        krg
        Link Parent
        Yea, I understand the feelings he was evoking, and even feel many of those myself! A lot of people do suck! Sometimes, things feel helpless! But... when it gets to the point of just picking at...

        Yea, I understand the feelings he was evoking, and even feel many of those myself! A lot of people do suck! Sometimes, things feel helpless! But... when it gets to the point of just picking at emotional scabs and ruminating on how things suck without any effort towards improving ones own well-being (knowing that you can't change anyone but yourself, really), well... that's where I start backing away. Partly, because at one point in my life I was certainly more that and it definitely is a miserable state to be in, but it's also like swinging at air. It gets to a point where you're self-enabling your own notions about the world and contributing to a feedback-loop. Thankfully, I never got too deep into that mindset and, even if I don't necessarily have a markedly better outlook on life... I can cope and not impose any of that misery on others.

        2 votes
        1. crdpa
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          I keep thinking about this sometimes, because i have periods where i switch between improving myself and resignation. While i know yelling at clouds accomplishes nothing, i can understand when...

          I keep thinking about this sometimes, because i have periods where i switch between improving myself and resignation. While i know yelling at clouds accomplishes nothing, i can understand when somebody has no hope.

          Not because really there is nothing to do, but because their brain is that way.

          We know so little about such states of mind that maybe that person is what he is because he just is. Osamu Dazai was an outlier. It's not the norm.

          So, while i understand not having too much empathy for a person like this.. i think that maybe that person didn't stand a chance at all. I'm not saying that he is not to blame, just that maybe his mind was so troubled that there was no escape.

          But who knows... We see a lot of talk about depression being a disease, but i think there are certain situations that depression is natural and there is no coming back. Like a mother losing a child, her home and other horrible things compounding.

          Of course.. we will never know. Ozamu didn't live in a place and time where mental health issues were really understood and addressed properly.

          2 votes
    2. [2]
      iiv
      Link Parent
      Thanks for your suggestions, I will check them out! If you had to choose one of them to begin with, which one would you pick?

      Thanks for your suggestions, I will check them out! If you had to choose one of them to begin with, which one would you pick?

      1 vote
      1. krg
        Link Parent
        Oo, Annie Dillard, for sure.

        Oo, Annie Dillard, for sure.

  2. [3]
    soks_n_sandals
    Link
    Check out this book called The Lonely City. My partner just read it for a book club and it was deeply engaging.

    Check out this book called The Lonely City. My partner just read it for a book club and it was deeply engaging.

    2 votes
    1. [2]
      iiv
      Link Parent
      Thanks! It seem interesting, I'm not usually one for non-fiction, but I'll check it out. I'm a bit worried that it'll be a self-help book. I don't know why, but I'm really not into that genre.

      Thanks! It seem interesting, I'm not usually one for non-fiction, but I'll check it out. I'm a bit worried that it'll be a self-help book. I don't know why, but I'm really not into that genre.

      1 vote
      1. soks_n_sandals
        Link Parent
        The excerpt that I read focused on Andy Warhol and the loneliness that he felt, despite being quite famous during his lifetime. I didn't get much sense of the author trying to bridge the memoir...

        The excerpt that I read focused on Andy Warhol and the loneliness that he felt, despite being quite famous during his lifetime. I didn't get much sense of the author trying to bridge the memoir aspect to self-help.

        1 vote
  3. [10]
    lag
    Link
    Tolstoy/ the death of ivan illych

    Tolstoy/ the death of ivan illych

    2 votes
    1. [8]
      nacho
      Link Parent
      That was going to be my top suggestion. I think you could go your entire life reading only works about loneliness/solitude Here are some of my favorites in no particular order: Sylvia Plath's The...
      • Exemplary

      That was going to be my top suggestion.

      I think you could go your entire life reading only works about loneliness/solitude

      Here are some of my favorites in no particular order:

      • Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar.
      • Walden by Henry David Thoreau
      • 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
      • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
      • Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis
      • A Writer’s Diary by Virginia Woolf
      • Life of Pi by Yann Martel
      • The Stranger by Albert Camus
      • A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf
      • The Trial by Franz Kafka
      • Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche
      • Doppler by Erlend Loe
      • Life and Times of Michael K by J.M. Coetzee
      • Hamlet by William Shakespeare (also King Lear)
      • Wide Saragasso Sea by Jean Rhys
      • Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
      • One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
      • Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
      • The Hunchback of Notre-Dame by Victor Hugo
      • No Exit by Jean-Paul Sartre
      • Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
      • The Outsider by H.P. Lovecraft
      6 votes
      1. [6]
        iiv
        Link Parent
        I've read aboyt half of those, and totally agree! I am especially happy about your recommendation of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, I thought I was the only one who had read that one...

        I've read aboyt half of those, and totally agree! I am especially happy about your recommendation of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, I thought I was the only one who had read that one haha! Can I ask how you found it?

        3 votes
        1. [3]
          nacho
          Link Parent
          I asked a Russian friend who works in literature for a list of must-read Russian novels. This was one of them. If you've read Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, I can't recommend Wide Saragasso Sea by...

          I asked a Russian friend who works in literature for a list of must-read Russian novels. This was one of them.

          If you've read Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, I can't recommend Wide Saragasso Sea by Jean Rhys enough (it's also good on its own, but like Cassandra by Christa Wolf, the retelling of a classic story from a female voice really adds another dimension).

          If I had to pick one other work on that list that's just remarkable and like nothing else I've ever read, that'd be Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis.

          1 vote
          1. [2]
            iiv
            Link Parent
            I've heard about Wild Sargasso Sea, and supposedly it's good, but I've always felt it's a bit tacky to use someone else's characters. How does it manifest in that book?

            I've heard about Wild Sargasso Sea, and supposedly it's good, but I've always felt it's a bit tacky to use someone else's characters. How does it manifest in that book?

            2 votes
            1. nacho
              Link Parent
              Without revealing too much, Jane Eyre is a highly problematic work because of how one female character from the Caribbean is given no agency. Rhys shows that and gives voice to that woman and...

              Without revealing too much, Jane Eyre is a highly problematic work because of how one female character from the Caribbean is given no agency.

              Rhys shows that and gives voice to that woman and thereby breaks through and exposes the colonialism (and inherent racism) that's simply not considered in Jane Eyre.

              Wide Sargasso sea also covers a substantially different timeframe than Jane Eyre, so it's more than just a rehash of the same plot from a different point of view.

              1 vote
        2. [2]
          imperialismus
          Link Parent
          What is this thread, a Russian literature course? When I did Russian studies at university we read both One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and The Death of Ivan Ilyich.

          What is this thread, a Russian literature course? When I did Russian studies at university we read both One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and The Death of Ivan Ilyich.

          1 vote
          1. iiv
            Link Parent
            Maybe Russians feel lonely a lot? Haha! Apparantly those two books were more popular than I had thought.

            Maybe Russians feel lonely a lot? Haha! Apparantly those two books were more popular than I had thought.

            1 vote
    2. iiv
      Link Parent
      Thanks! I've already read Ivan Ilyich and loved it. Will try to read more Tolstoy.

      Thanks! I've already read Ivan Ilyich and loved it. Will try to read more Tolstoy.

  4. [3]
    imperialismus
    Link
    Hmm. Maybe Kerouac and Hemingway.

    Hmm. Maybe Kerouac and Hemingway.

    1 vote
    1. [2]
      iiv
      Link Parent
      I have read some Hemingway, but no Kerouac. Can you recommend a book to start with Kerouac?

      I have read some Hemingway, but no Kerouac. Can you recommend a book to start with Kerouac?

      1. imperialismus
        Link Parent
        On the Road (his most iconic novel) or Dharma Bums.

        On the Road (his most iconic novel) or Dharma Bums.

        2 votes
  5. grungegun
    Link
    Jude the Obscure

    Jude the Obscure

    1 vote
  6. Staross
    Link
    Charlotte Brontë's Villette.

    Charlotte Brontë's Villette.