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Best Transgressive Fiction

Transgressive fiction focuses on characters who feel confined by the norms and expectations of society and who break free of those confines in unusual or illicit ways.

Because they are rebelling against the basic norms of society, protagonists of transgressive fiction may seem mentally ill, anti-social, or nihilistic. The genre deals extensively with taboo subject matters such as drugs, sexual activity, violence, incest, pedophilia, and crime.
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797 books · 972 voters · list created May 13th, 2012 by Xandra (votes) .
790 likes · 
Lists are re-scored approximately every 5 minutes.


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Comments Showing 1-20 of 20 (20 new)

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message 1: by Julian (last edited Oct 06, 2012 07:02AM) (new)

Julian Meynell 1984 is a really good book, but it is clearly not transgressive fiction. Someone has been adding dystopias to this list.


Themis-Athena (Lioness at Large) Julian wrote: "1984 is a really good book, but it is clearly not transgressive fiction. Someone has been adding dystopias to this list."

As far as I can see, it was added by the list creator herself ...

And of course, 1984 IS all about transgressing the norms of society -- only not contemporary Western society's norms, but the norms of the society this particular book is set in.


message 3: by Julian (last edited Oct 09, 2012 07:45AM) (new)

Julian Meynell Themis-Athena wrote:

"And of course, 1984 IS all about transgressing the norms of society -- only not contemporary Western society's norms, but the norms of the society this particular book is set in. "



I don't disagree with you, and I think that dystopias and transgressive fiction are closely related subgenre's, however I think that the fact that the reader is presumed to not a member of one society and to be at least potentially be a member of the other society are important distinctions. Dystopia's are always at least warnings about possible or actual societal future trends, whereas at least the characters in transgressive fiction are rejecting the norms of the actual societies in which the author lives.

I think that the two genre's have somewhat different attitudes to societal reform. One is essentially a progressive genre and the other conservative (generally speaking).


Themis-Athena (Lioness at Large) Julian wrote: "Themis-Athena wrote:

"And of course, 1984 IS all about transgressing the norms of society -- only not contemporary Western society's norms, but the norms of the society this particular book is se..."


Possibly so, but my point was that the list creator herself seems to see books dealing with present-time (or past) real life society/societies and fictitious future/dystopian societies as closely enough related to lump them together in this list under the heading "Transgressive Fiction." And for all I'm concerned, it's the list creator's prerogative to define which books are, and which aren't supposed to be included in a list ...


message 5: by Xandra (new)

Xandra @Julian: Sorry for the late reply. I must have missed your comment.

It’s true that I had my doubts regarding 1984, but there are people, though I reckon not many, who consider it to be transgressive fiction (myself included). I put it on the list because it has too many characteristics in common with the more “traditional” literature of transgression to be left out. In the context of his reality, Winston is a nihilistic outcast with a miserable life who feels confined by the norms of his society and decides to rebel against them in socially unacceptable ways (by joining a group whose aim is the destruction of the Party). From Big Brother’s POV, Winston is a pretty transgressive pain in the ass.

But even looking outside fiction, the book was written as a way of attacking Stalin’s totalitarianism. In the world Orwell lived in, totalitarianism was a reality. Many norms of Orwell’s society (a society that continued to disillusion him: Burma, Spain, USSR) weren’t too far off from the characteristics of Winston’s society. It may not have been the exact same society, but it was one that was becoming dangerously similar by the day. Even today in parts of the world such as North Korea, 1984 would be considered trangressive.

So while I understand that Julian – and probably most people – would consider 1984 a discrepant choice for this list, I still think that it deserves to be here.


message 6: by Julian (last edited Oct 09, 2012 11:28AM) (new)

Julian Meynell Well fair enough and I recognize Xandra's right to define her list however she wants.

I can get over-protective of this maligned little sub-genre.


message 7: by Jonesmikey (new)

Jonesmikey Winston Smith answered "yes" to the question "would you be willing to throw acid into a child's face." I guess that makes his behavior transgressive.


message 8: by Julian (last edited Dec 21, 2012 06:27AM) (new)

Julian Meynell Jonesmikey wrote: "Winston Smith answered "yes" to the question "would you be willing to throw acid into a child's face." I guess that makes his behavior transgressive."

I disagree. If we include things where, the main character says something transgressive that is way too broad. That's such a broad characterization that it captures most of literature. In a Christmas Carol Scrooge says that all poor children should be placed in work houses. Is a Christmas Carol transgressive literature?

But I agree that if the original poster wants to include dystopias she can.


Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship Including dystopias, and things that would be transgressive in North Korea, leaves us with such a broadly defined definition that I don't even know where to start. The description mentions "sex" as an example of transgression, but I'd consider it par for the course.


message 10: by Xandra (new)

Xandra Not every book that involves sex, violence or crime is transgressive. It's just that these topics often appear in this kind of literature. If the characters transgress the basic norms of society, it's transgressive. Sex (generally unusual sexual practices) can be a part of it or not.


message 11: by Paul (new)

Paul Bowes Checked for duplicates: 5 books removed.


message 12: by Brien (new)

Brien Piechos I really respect the list maker but I do have a criticism, and it's not about 1984. That book's dystopian setting certainly doesn't disqualify it as transgressive. But there is way, way, way too much Douglas Copeland here. First off, the guy sucks, but that's besides the point. The only transgressive thing he ever did was, how to put this..., well let's just say Generation X is a Burroughs "cover song." Copeland blows.


message 13: by J (last edited Jun 30, 2015 11:25PM) (new)

J Someone should better moderate this list. I LOVE Haruki Murakami. But nothing he writes is "transgressive" in the slightest. Ryu Murakami, MOST DEFINITELY. But, hell no for Huruki.
I'm not really sure how this list is made, but Blood and Guts in High School should be #1. That thing will make you have nightmares.
Edit: The God of Small Things? Breakfast of Champs? KITE RUNNER!?
A novel that stirs some controversy upon release is NOT the sole requirement for "transgressive fiction".


message 14: by Xandra (last edited Jul 02, 2015 08:57AM) (new)

Xandra @Brien & J: The problem is that anyone can add books, but (as far as I know) only librarians can remove them. I tried to keep it as clean as I could, but people keep adding the same books over and over again and this list has gotten pretty big and hard to moderate by myself. There are many books I haven't read and can't say for sure if they fit here or not so I can't remove them without fear of making a mistake.

I'll take a look and try to clean it up a bit, but if there are any librarians around here that can help and make this a collective effort, it would be much appreciated.


message 15: by J (new)

J Xandra wrote: "@Brien & J: The problem is that anyone can add books, but (as far as I know) only librarians can remove them. I tried to keep it as clean as I could, but people keep adding the same books over and ..."

That makes total sense. Pff people. You made the list, they should restrict the adding to your approval!
But, well done anyway. I got a few good titles from this.


message 16: by Ed (new)

Ed Tantamount While I think that Ham on Rye and Post Office are fine books in the collection of transgressive work by Bukowski, his greatest effort by far in this genre was Factotum. My opinion. Thanks for the list.


message 17: by Uchan (new)

Uchan A Fauzan Actually, how do we really differentiate between transgressive fiction, absurdist fiction, and dystopian fiction?


message 18: by Matt (new)

Matt Youth I didn't find John Niven in this list and I was a bit disappointed :) John Fante wasn't there either, am I in the wrong place? I love the books listed, obviously, there will be more to be discovered! What do you think? Matt


message 19: by Matt (new)

Matt Youth Ed wrote: "While I think that Ham on Rye and Post Office are fine books in the collection of transgressive work by Bukowski, his greatest effort by far in this genre was Factotum. My opinion. Thanks for the l..."

Factotum is one of my favourites too! Great stuff!


message 20: by Xandra (new)

Xandra Matt wrote: "I didn't find John Niven in this list and I was a bit disappointed :) John Fante wasn't there either, am I in the wrong place?"

Well, I see you added them. Thank you for contributing to this list!


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