Lana is a published writer and editor who helps aspiring authors take their writing to the next level.
What is Absurdist Literature?
Absurdist fiction is a philosophical commentary on the absurdity of the world.
It's a genre of literature that highlights alienation, anguish and existential despair that human beings experience. The basic premise is that life has no meaning, purpose or order.
Absurdist literature is essentially the literature of disillusionment that embraces all the chaotic, grotesque and irrational elements of life. Some of the best known absurdist authors include Franz Kafka, Lewis Carroll, Daniil Kharms, Samuel Beckett and Albert Camus.
The following 5 ultra short stories with elements of absurd are my tribute to the genre.
READ AND DESTROY
This letter was found in the archives of the Meadow Creek Psychiatric Hospital, many years after it was closed. The identity of the author remains unknown.
"I checked myself into a psychiatric hospital out of fear for my sanity, even though I secretly wished to be insane my whole life. Madness meant liberation from the wretched tyranny of the mind, and deep down, all I ever really wanted was freedom.
I figured, if I loosen my mind enough, it will break someday. So here comes the acid. And the weed. And the booze. I wanted to push every limit known to man. Sounds insane already, n'est pas?
Everyone told me: "You are your worst enemy." Finally I took it to heart.
Since I am my worst enemy, I must destroy myself to save myself from myself. Then the death of reason will become the birth of true reason, freedom and spiritual enlightenment. I'm sure it sounds idiotic to all you proper law-abiding citizens, but to me the only salvation was a total extermination of every natural impulse I had.
Upon checking-in, I’ve examined my new comrades: a paper-thin toothless creature talking to her hair, a comically serious man in a wheelchair masturbating with both hands, a smiling pleasant-looking gent, the kind that always turns out to be a serial killer... Although I was still sentimentally attached to my sanity, I envied these people.
Everyone told me: "You are your worst enemy." Finally I took it to heart. Since I am my worst enemy, I must destroy myself to save myself from myself.
They were the ones who made it out of the maze, the maze you’re all running blindly, led only by your reptilian needs that scream: Food! Sex! Safety! Entertainment! Comfort! The temporary satisfaction at the end of the maze is all you’re ever going to get in life, just like all the other rats running the same maze, so run you fucking rodent! Run! Until the day you drop dead.
These people were free. In the world of primitive obedient rats and big fat rats that were smart enough to build the mazes, they found a loophole: insanity. I wanted to be them. I wanted to be human, for what’s more human than madness? So I gave in to it.
Now I know why they want all the nutcases locked up. Because madness is unpredictable. In a society made entirely of mazes, unpredictability is dangerous. What if instead of running the maze some rats start asking questions? What if they get organized, eat the big fat rats and then stick their big fat heads on pikes? That’s what I was thinking.
In lunar year 6698 I wrote the Madness Tractate. I wrote it in saliva on the walls of my room so the rats in white coats can’t read it. Oh they’re dying to read it! After the revolution takes place, the future generations will call it the greatest document of the century! Of the millennium! Of all times!
But I’m not in it for the glory. My purpose is to deliver a warning: beware of closed spaces. Beware of color red. Beware of all colors. Beware of comfort. Beware of sanity. I am patient # 983645 at the Meadow Creek Psychiatric Hospital. Whoever finds and reads this letter, I urge you to destroy it immediately. The rats are onto you."
(This story won a second place in the Phyllis Scott Publishing monthly competition for original short stories. It was published in the collection titled "A Quiet and Peaceful Place & Other Short Stories" on November 12, 2011.)
She loved him, but that wouldn't have been enough.
So she used all the tricks that women learn as part of their socializing process to get a man attached.
She schemed and manipulated.
She played power games.
She gave silence treatments.
She flirted with other men to ignite jealousy.
She satisfied all his sexual desires so he would crave her like a drug.
But that wouldn't have been enough. She had to make sure he always saw her as a beautiful desirable woman.
So she wore tight clothes, skin-chafing G-strings and suffocating double-padded bras.
She walked in high heels, risking sciatica, osteoarthritis and a fairly unpleasant contraction of the calf muscle.
She accessorized with color-matching earrings, necklaces and bracelets.
She put plastics on her eyeballs, bleached her hair, painted her face, waxed, plucked and exfoliated.
But that wouldn't have been enough. She had to be clever and funny and always different.
So she discussed books, politics and Eastern philosophies.
She pretended to like sports.
She invented a thousand ways to make him laugh.
She never wore the same outfit twice.
She was extraordinarily charming with his friends and family – to draw him even closer.
When he couldn’t live without her, she changed her mind.
Moving to California starts making more and more sense. Maybe I can contextualize myself better in a warm climate: I'll be less depressed, less moody, less suicidal... I'm craving sunshine like a crack whore craving that sparkly soul-warming crack.
In my mind's eye I see myself with golden locks of hair stroked by the breeze, in a long flowing dress or in a bikini, in which case I have dark shimmering tan and bigger breasts. I'm going to eat healthy, meditate twice a day, chant, stretch and detox until every cell of my body buzzes like a vibrator.
With California dreaming in full gear, I have my sights set on San Francisco.
I arrive in stilettos, ready for anything. The wind knocks me off my feet and drags me down the street, down Russian Hill, down Nob Hill, all the way to Embarcadero. I’m thinking: this isn’t the postcard California I envisioned.
The hobo on the corner of Market and Main confirms that impression. My bare feet are touching the saliva and urine-soaked pavement, my hair is ravaged by the whirlwinds of the bay. I’m thinking: this ain’t no gentle breeze.
I go to Alcatraz. There are no ghosts, only the seagulls shitting everywhere, damn birds. The boat captain says everyone has to be back on time. "If you’re one minute late, it means you’re 59 minutes early for the next boat.”
I hope for someone to be late, or at least pissed off about the birds, but they’re all on time, with satisfied looks on their faces, like they just took a group photo with Al Capone, and now they're Facebook friends. I jump into the icy cold bay and, against all odds, make it back to the city. It isn’t the postcard California I envisioned.
TAKE A BOW, JACK
Over a hundred years ago the man known as Jack the Ripper was finally brought to justice. At his trial women-spectators, dressed as prostitutes and groomed to fit his "type", were shouting: “Jack, kill me! Kill me!” He smiled at them with childlike sweetness...
“How do you plead to the charges against you?”
The public gasps in shock; all eyes are fixed on a charming gentleman in a dark tweed suit.
“I am a physician, your Honor. I cure the diseases of the flesh. These prostitutes were infecting London's flesh, and as a doctor your Honor, I won't stand for it. They are the disgusting dirty parasites that spread sickness and crime everywhere they go. Tell me, ladies and gentlemen, you are not all secretly grateful to me for ridding the society of these women. I was doing a public service.”
The courtroom explodes with applause. Women blow kisses and scream “I love you, Jack!” Jack the Ripper takes a courteous bow.
ON THE VALUE OF SINCERITY
Above all, I appreciate candor.
When Jeremy joined our table at Gallagher's bar, unapologetically cock-blocking the blond male nurse and being very clever at that, things suddenly started looking up. He was, of course, a damaged case, a loser and a prick, but he was a genuine prick, and that's rare these days.
Natalie hated Jeremy despite the fact that after a couple of crown-n-cokes she’s in love with everyone. She liked the bland blond nurse, despite the fact that he kept wiping his nose with the back of his hand. The bland blond didn't fancy anybody, despite the fact that everyone fancies someone. That's just the way he was, so lets leave it at that.
© 2012 Lana Adler
Lana Adler (author) from California on October 25, 2019:
Hasnat Saeed from Wah Cantt,Punjab,Pakistan on October 24, 2019:
"I am my worst enemy, I must destroy myself to save myself from myself. Then the death of reason will become the birth of true reason, freedom and spiritual enlightenment."
Loved this passage
Lana Adler (author) from California on August 29, 2019:
Thank you so much Lori! I also identify with his struggles so this story is particularly personal for me, too.
Lori Colbo from United States on July 26, 2019:
This was fascinating. I had not heard of this genre before. When I saw the title I thought it might be a humor piece. I was particularly struck by the vividness of the first story. He had a brilliant mind and capacity to articulate not only his feelings but the tormenting struggle with perspective, confusion and turmoil. I have personal experience with psychiatric hospitalization. And his struggles really hit home. It's common for people with mental illness to have vibrant creativity in the arts.
I'm going to come back and read again as It is way past my bedtime. Thanks for sharing this.
Samantha from Auckland on May 05, 2019:
Oh yes! This is it. Thank you so much. So glad I read your article.
Lana Adler (author) from California on October 26, 2018:
Thanks very much! I fancy this genre too! :)
PoetikalyAnointed on October 24, 2018:
Hmm, Absurdist Lit huh?
Clear the crowd, where do I sign up? I'm so glad that I gave your Hub a read. I related to damn near each short so I fancy this genre.
Thanks for the intro...
Ges Jaicten from Iloilo City on September 14, 2018:
Thank you, yes I've heard of Kafka especially his book metamorphoses. I haven't read any of Kharms' yet though.
Thank you for the suggestion.
Lana Adler (author) from California on September 14, 2018:
Have you read Daniil Kharms or Franz Kafka? Very interesting authors, unpredictable and bizarre stories.
Ges Jaicten from Iloilo City on September 13, 2018:
Wow. I think I found a new favorite genre. As someone that enjoys and studies literature, I would love to read more absurdist literature. Can someone recommend a book or an author that I can follow?
Lana Adler (author) from California on April 12, 2018:
Thank you so much Amber! :)
cursedempath on April 12, 2018:
Your style is right up my alley. I absolutely loved it!
Thank you for sharing this :)
Lana Adler (author) from California on April 01, 2018:
Wow! I didn't know where that picture is from, that's fascinating! My favorite part is the writing on the walls, and it matches my story perfectly. Thanks for the info!
Michelle Hoogerwerf on April 01, 2018:
The photo you used above is actually a photo exactly as many have taken of the same tubs from Manteno State Hospital in Illinois which closed many years ago. The writing is a tribute to one of the previous patients. I have seen this photo many times, even at a high school art show in Florida. It always catches my eye because I have photographed these buildings many times. I saw it on your page and just wanted to comment.
Ioannis Arvanitis from Greece, Almyros on February 15, 2018:
When the reader reads with open mouth and wide eyes, you know that you got him for good! This is me while I am reading you, and my wife saying "Did you have a stroke?"
"Read and destroy" is one of the best things I've ever read!
In my list of favorites writers, there is a new name. As I am learning and trying to become a writer, your writings are a gift to me.
Thank you so much for sharing.
My best wishes
Lana Adler (author) from California on January 12, 2018:
Thank you, high praise :) I’ve never read Vonnegut so I can’t comment on that, but I know what it’s like to battle with your own darkness...
Vicki Wood from Eldon, Missouri on January 12, 2018:
I liked it, speaks to my twisted soul and my own family's battles with mental health. Your writing style reminds me of Vonnegut.
Lana Adler (author) from California on August 13, 2017:
Aww shucks :) thank you. I don't write much fiction anymore (reality took over) so I'm particularly grateful for your feedback, wpcooper. Thank you for reading!
Fin from Barstow on August 10, 2017:
Some really interesting pieces. I especially like the one about San Francisco ----you have a nice voice and a great pace with the sudden fiction genre (i guess that is the appropriate category).
the letter found in an insane asylum was especially interesting because of the evolution....
great little works...thank you for sharing.
Lana Adler (author) from California on June 09, 2017:
Excellent! Then we have something in common :)
Aristotle Wilson from Vancouver on May 26, 2017:
I'm quite interested in this topic
Lana Adler (author) from California on November 23, 2015:
"Face the facts of being what you are, for that is what changes what you are." I think I like him!
Eldon Arsenaux from Cooley, Texas on November 22, 2015:
Tidbits here and there, amongst other's works as well. Only mentioned him because of his connection to ideas on the absurd and the kill.
Look forward to seeing more superb stuff from ya!
Lana Adler (author) from California on November 22, 2015:
Thank you Eldon! I have developed a bit of a fascination with ol' Jack, so women in the courtroom are a version of me, a more naive hysterical absurd version. Of course, my interest is of a more analytical nature. But then again, isn't every character some version of ourselves?
Have I ever studied Kierkegaard? People ask me that all the time (just kidding). I'm familiar with him in general terms, as a first existentialist philosopher. Have you?
Thanks for stopping by!
Eldon Arsenaux from Cooley, Texas on November 20, 2015:
I enjoyed "Take A Bow, Jack". It blends the hysteria of justice with absurd devotions (are they so disparate?). Thoroughly engrossing image and idea compacted into the short-short story template. The innocence of guilt...?
-By chance, and by my personal interest, have you ever studied Kierkegaard?-
Keep 'em coming!
IvanaJohnsn on October 15, 2015:
This look very sick!
Lana Adler (author) from California on October 13, 2015:
Thank you John! I love absurd fiction, even though it was difficult for a mentally oriented person (like me) to connect with it. We need things to make sense! But it's so liberating once you realize that...no, making sense is just another mental straightjacket. And that's how "Read and Destroy" was born :)
sujaya venkatesh on October 13, 2015:
John Hansen from Gondwana Land on October 12, 2015:
Wow! What fantastic absurd stories kalinin115, thank you for introducing me to a new sub-genre of flash fiction. I am actually anxious to try my hand at it now. Loved "Read and Destroy", but "Relationship Conundrums" was good too, and "Postcard California"..heck they were all great. Well done.
Lana Adler (author) from California on April 04, 2013:
"Transgressive"... I love that. So many things you can do with the notion of the absurd. "Read and Destroy" is my favourite too, I always wished to be insane... ;-)
James from North West England on March 31, 2013:
'Read and Destroy' is my favourite of the lot, lovely bit of short transgressive fiction. Very interesting character developed extremely well over such few words.
Lana Adler (author) from California on December 25, 2012:
Thank you! I was going for absurd. It's so great to read the feedback from other writers, I usually don't have that privilege. Absurdist Short Stories 2 , coming up!
Ronald Joseph Kule from Florida on December 17, 2012:
Jim Higgins from Eugene, Oregon on December 17, 2012:
Agreed! Interesting and out there...
Ronald Joseph Kule from Florida on December 17, 2012:
Absurd madness foreshadowed into the future: this is interesting stuff. A far cry from other short stories posted on the Web.
I would read more of these by this author.