Nihilism Definition: A philosophical doctrine that suggests the lack of belief in one or more reputedly meaningful aspects of life. Most commonly, nihilism is presented in the form of existential nihilism, which argues that life is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value…(more)
In literature the term ‘nihilism’ was first popularised by 19th Century Russian author Ivan Turgenev in his novel Fathers and Sons.
This week’s post is dedicated to six works of fiction that could be described as nihilistic. They are presented in the order in which they were published. Click on the links to read my reviews.
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (1899)
Heart of Darkness is a disturbing, multi-layered story about what can occur when man exists outside of civilisation’s constraints. Readers are challenged to question the existence of being.
My Review: Heart of Darkness is a novella about a steamship sailing up a river through the jungles of The Congo, in search of Mr Kurtz, a mysterious ivory trader, who has reportedly turned native…(more)
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka (1915)
The Metamorphosis is a bleak, existential nihilistic tale that comments on the human condition and the futility of life. This reader appreciated its dark humour.
My Review: Protagonist Gregor Samsa wakes up one morning to find that he has been transformed into a beetle. This awkward situation is exacerbated when Gregor’s boss turns up at his house…(more)
Novel with Cocaine by M. Ageyev (1934)
Novel with Cocaine is a nihilistic novel about adolescence and addiction that has been described as Dostoyevskian, due to the thorough psychological exploration of its main character.
My Review: Set in the years immediately before and after the Russian Revolution, Novel with Cocaine follows the life of Vadim, a Moscow adolescent and student. Vadim is prone to self-loathing…(more)
The Plague by Albert Camus (1947)
Viewed by many as being an existential nihilist classic, The Plague is a philosophical work that explores absurdism; the human tendency to try and find meaning in life, but failing to find any.
My Review: In the Algerian coastal town of Oran, an explosion in the rat population has not gone unnoticed. The infestation soon comes to an abrupt halt with the mysterious demise of the rats…(more)
Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis (1985)
Easton Ellis’s debut novel is a nihilistic account of life in 1980s L.A. Utilising social commentary and plotless realism, Less Than Zero is a graphic and disturbing novel that is unrelenting in its bleakness.
My Review: Set in 1980s Los Angeles, the story follows eighteen-year-old Clay, returned home for Christmas from college in New Hampshire. Clay immediately falls back into the L.A. social scene, spending his time…(more)
Choke by Chuck Palahniuk (2001)
This nihilistic novel is about our innate craving for attention and the fundamental nature of addiction. Its protagonist has a penchant for purposely choking on food at expensive restaurants.
My Review: The protagonist, Victor Mancini, is a sex addict employed at an eighteenth-century historical re-enactment park. Victor attends various sexual addiction support groups, where he meets many…(more)