We might imagine that truth reveals itself in science, sacred texts or spiritual authority.
Truth reveals itself in fiction, as well as non-fiction.
Quietly or dramatically, a truth touches a depth in our being. The truth may show itself in the fable, the metaphor, the magical story, poetic nuance or a search in a kingdom of the imagination.
Stories have power to them. We experience the insightful power of stories through our receptivity. Stories portray the spiritual search for the Goal that appears out of reach. You will see metaphors (a hunt for honey, a trip to Egypt, a journey down the rabbit hole) of the search.
The characters in these stories reveal our lives, the complexity of human relationships and the Sanghas of communication. Such literature act as powerful archetypes for our own struggles and our journey through existence.
Fiction can enlighten our lives in the same way as non-fiction.
Here are 12 of my favourite books of imaginative fiction that shed light on the field of existence.
In Alphabetical order:
1. 100 Years of Solitude
Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1927 – 2014). Born in Colombia.
This is a story of life in Macondo, a South American village. The villagers suffer from a plague of insomnia. TThey endure wars, Western exploitation, family dynamics. The book covers seven generations of change including bizarre political leadership, prophets and magicians,who can morph into each other. The novel explores a world of magical reality while embracing the meaningful and the meaningless features of collective existence.
Opening lines: “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice…”
2. Alice in Wonderland
Lewis Caroll (1832- 1898). Born England.
Alice follows the white rabbit with a watch and falls a long way down its hole into a magical kingdom. She finds a key on the table but then falls into a pool of water. She goes onto meet amazing beings – a mouse, rabbit, pigeon, duchess, a cook, march hare, Cheshire cat and the King and Queen of Hearts. Alice attends the Mad hatters tea party. She feels her authority as a court witness. The card protest about her and then Alice wakes up.
Quote: Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.
Alice: I don’t much care where.
The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.
Alice: …So long as I get somewhere.
The Cheshire Cat: Oh, you’re sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.”
3. Animal Farm.
By George Orwell (1903– 1950). England. Born in Bihar, India.
A thin novel about farm animals, who take over Manor Farm and evict the cruel owner. The animals try to build a democratic society based on the Seven Commandments of Animals. Napoleon, the pig, gets a taste for power….
Quote: “We are all equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
4. Brave New World
Aldous Huxley. (1894 – 1963). Born in England
In a futuristic world, a handful of powerful men control the population. Citizens must work, be addicted to pleasure and have casual sex. All citizens receive the drug Soma to experience ‘lunar eternity.’ The World Controller pronounces the loss of freedom and individuality is a small price to pay for stability.
Quote: “I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.”
by William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616). Born in England.
A story of karma, a moral lesson in obsession for power Macbeth murders his much-loved king. Lust, envy, jealousy and violence dominate his mind with his wife urging him on to be king at all costs. As a result of his action, Macbeth loses all the respect and love he received from the people. He pays for his ambition with his life.
Quote: “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
“Stars hide your fires. Let me see my deep and dark desires.”
(Oxford School edition has a very helpful analysis of the play to understand words of the Bard.. I watch a Shakespearean play on TV and have a copy of the play in laptop to understand more.
By Herman Hesse (1877 – 1962). Germany. Grandparents were missionaries in India.
Siddhartha, the son of a Brahmin, flees from his home with his friend Govinda to live the life of a samana (a wandering ascetic) to find the truth. He follows the Buddha for a while but Siddhartha leaves in his struggle to know what matters. He meets Kamala, a beautiful courtesan, to learn about love. His spiritual journey takes him to a ferry.
Quote: “I can think. I can wait. I can fast.”
“But yes, I can also write poetry.”
7. The Alchemist
By Paulo Coehlo (1947 -) Brazil
This is a beautiful fable about Santiago, a Spanish shepherd boy who dreams of a making a journey to know the treasures of the Egyptian pyramids. He abandons his life as a shepherd boy and sets off for Egypt. On the way, he meets various people who teach him about life.
Quote: “We are travellers on a cosmic journey, stardust, swirling and dancing in the eddies and whirlpools of infinity. Life is eternal. We have stopped for a moment to encounter each other, to meet, to love, to share. This is a precious moment. It is a little parenthesis in eternity.”
8. The Little Prince
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900-1944). Born in Lyons, France.
A pilot crashes in the desert where he meets the little Prince. The Prince tells the pilot about his visits to other tiny asteroids, where he met one single inhabitant on each: a king a conceited man, a drunk, a businessman, a geographer and more. The boy meets the snake. who talks in riddles. The novel offers a critique of social archetypes and human folly.
Quote: And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
9. Il Postino
Antonio Skarmeta (1940 – ) Chile
Pablo Neruda, the famous Chilean poet, lives in political exile on a small island. Mario, the son of a fisherman, works as a postman bringing letters to the poet in his remote home. The young man falls in love with a beautiful and sensual young woman working as barmaid. The poet become his mentor in matters of love. Mario learns to love poetry and the power of metaphors.
Mario. “Poetry doesn’t belong to those who write it; it belongs to those who need it.”
10. The Prophet
Kahlil Gibran (1883 – 1931). Born in Lebanon.
An invitation to apply a spiritual perspective to many of the major areas of our daily life. Kahlil Gibran address a range of issues with countless poetic nuances. He writes on some 40 topics including children, marriage, suffering, work and teaching.
On children; “Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself”
On marriage: Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone.”
11. The Snowman
Raymond Briggs (1934 -) Born in England.
This is a wordless story. Beautiful artwork. A little boy builds a snowman, which comes alive in a dream. The boy invites the snowman home. In return, the snowman takes the boy on a magical flight through the night. The next morning the snowman has melted. The little boy thinks it was a dream, except that he still has the scarf in his pocket.
12. Winnie the Pooh
A.A. Milne (1882 – 1956). England
In the 100-acre wood, Winnie the Pooh, a teddy bear, tries without success to get honey from a bee tree. He borrows the balloon of Christopher Robin’s balloon but still fails. Owl convinces Tigger, Rabbit, Piglet, Pooh, Kanga, Roo, and Eeyore that their young friend has been kidnapped. and they set out to save him. Christopher Robin starts an expedition to the North Pole, but nobody knows where to go.
Quote: “I’m not lost for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.”
MAY ALL BEINGS SQUEEZE THE HONEY OUT OF BOOKS
MAY ALL BEINGS EXPLORE THE PROMISED LAND
MAY ALL BEING KNOW THE FUSION OF THE JOURNEY AND THE GOAL
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