When asked what the strangest book I have ever read was I struggled to come up with a single title, not because I haven’t read any bizarre books but because I have read too many. Anything from Richard Laymon is very peculiar, Clive Barker is barking and I remember reading (or rather partially reading) a novel about a ghostly loo which was too strange even for me.
Bizarre books are not a new phenomenon though, ever since man learned how to make his mark he has been producing weird and wonderful tomes that defy explanation and here I have picked out five of the world’s most bizarre books ever written.
The Book Of Soyga
Also called the Aldaraia, The Book of Soyga is a 16th-century Latin treatise on magic but the truly bizarre aspect to this particular book lies in the behaviour of the owner of one copy. John Dee was an English mathematician, astronomer, astrologer, occult philosopher, and advisor to Queen Elizabeth I and he claimed to have had a conversation with an angel. The owner of one of the largest libraries in England Dee became obsessed with deciphering the strange code in which the Soyga was written and as he progressed he began to realise that what he had before him was an in-depth list of magical incantations. Struggling to decode the final pages Dee enlisted the help of a spiritual medium to summon the Archangel Uriel while on a trip to continental Europe. Answering the summons Uriel informed Dee that the Soyga was given to Adam in the Garden of Eden but beyond that he could not help as only the Archangel Michael was able to translate the final pages of code. Sadly Michael was never to answer Dee’s calls and he died never knowing what those final pages said. There remain only two copies of The Book of Soyga, one in the British Library and the other in Oxford’s Bodleian Library; the code remains unsolved.
Dancing Lessons For The Advanced In Age
Written in 1964 by Czech author Bohumil Hrabal Dancing Lessons for the Advanced in Age is a 128 page long book about an old man who walks up to six women sunbathing in the middle of a city and engages them in conversation, discussing everyday happenings and occurrences that he has experienced throughout his life; sharing his loves and hates, successes and failures he rambles on to his captive audience. All very mundane so far and nothing out of the ordinary except for the fact that the entire novel consists of one single sentence.
Considered one of the greatest Czech authors in history Hrabal is noted for his lengthy sentence structures but in this book he took the concept to extremes and in doing so produced, according to many one of the best books you’ve never read.
Translating to the “Book of the People” Popol Vuh is more breathtaking than bizarre but its method of coming into being is definitely unusual. Written over several centuries by many different authors the Popol Vuh covers the entire span of Mayan history and mythology written by the very people who were experiencing it – the 16th-century Maya.
Francisco Ximenez a a Dominican priest began translated the Book of the People when he lived with the Mayan people in the early 1700s and his method of translation (rewriting the book in two columns one for the original K’iche’, the language of the Guatemalan Maya, and one in Spanish) it means that the Popol Vuh is one of those very rare examples of historical text that remains true to the original with nothing being lost over centuries of translations and interpretations.
Prodigiorum Ac Ostentorum Chronicon
Written in 1557 by the French humanist Conrad Lycosthenes and laid out in encyclopaedic format Prodigiorum Ac Ostentorum Chronicon or the Chronicle of Portents and Prophecies is an interesting mix of history and mythology.
Covering many factual and well-documented disasters, floods, and meteor showers (including Halley’s comet) that we know are verifiable are tales of sea monsters, visits from alien life forms, UFO sightings and many Biblical stories all intertwined and written almost as if being reported. With over 1,000 original woodcut illustrations of the phenomenon and intricate descriptions of each happening the lines between what is real and what is imagined are beyond blurred and leaves one wondering what on earth the author was trying to achieve.
The Story Of The Vivian Girls
Doesn’t every school pupil think that their caretaker/janitor is living a secret life? Well in the case of downtown Chicago janitor Henry Darger they would have been correct. After Darger’s death in 1973 his landlord discovered an immense manuscript; running to over 15,000 pages in length and titled The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What is Known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion the manuscript consists of over 300 huge watercolours that Darger had made by juxtaposing images from magazines and newspapers and tracing over them to form new compositions some of which measure an immense 3 metres in size and a staggering 9 million words! It is believed that Darger had been working on his novel for decades all whilst living in a tiny one room apartment and never breathing a word of his life’s work to anyone.
These aren’t even the tip of the iceberg when it comes to bizarre books and I am sure you all have plenty of your own titles to add to this list but these five just tipped the balance from strange and into truly unusual for me.