Great books in which nothing happens


I can sense the words,kindred spirit floating about in the murky void between my ears.


Reminds me of a Demotivator T-shirt I saw once. It read, “More people have read this T-shirt than your blog.”

Good ol’ Despair, Inc.

Not really a book, but Waiting For Godot (and actually, quite a lot of other absurdist theatre).

It famously got the review “A fantastic play, where nothing happens… twice…”


I have to disagree with this - I think the plot is very strong. I mean, Gregor turns into a Dungbeatle - I think that counts as something happening.

Then again I must confess that I haven’t read the original Kafka version, instead I composed the music for a stage adaptation of it (based on Berkoff’s script) and was therefore heavily influenced by Berkoff’s AND my director’s interpretation of it.

Actually, the transformation occurs before the story even begins.

Ah fairy nuff. In the Berkoff adaptation is happens extremely early on, but you do witness it. This is, I suspect, partially an excuse for lots of chereographed movement.

And, if I remember rightly, in the book he is a cockroach … cockroaches are infinitely more unpleasant than dungbeetles … I live in a land where my flat periodically gets invaded by flying 2-inch monster cockroaches <ugh!> … I always think that if and when the four horsemen of the apocalypse finally turn up, they will be riding cockroaches!


I recall reading a bit of a commentary (in the preface for one of the newer translations) on this first sentence in Metamorphosis. The German word literally translates to English as “vermin,” which could mean in any manner of undesirable creature. But I think it was Kafka’s intent for it to just be some sort of bug, rather than any specific type.

I stand happily corrected, as a victim of translation through not having been able to read the original … and it was pushing half a century ago, perish the thought!



My all-time favourite Japanese author is Banana Yoshimoto. She can’t write a bad book, it seems. Goodbye Tsugumi is my favourite, followed closely by Kitchen.

Also, Kazuo Ishigiro, who isn’t strictly Japanese. He’s actually a British national, although born in Japan and, of course, of Japanese descent. Ishigiro writes some wonderful novels (Artist of the Floating World is a masterpiece of post-war fiction), but it’s in short stories where he really shows his craft. I can’t remember its name, but he writes a story about Fugu (yes, that Fugu) and a ghost by a childhood well where, literally, nothing ACTUALLY happens and yet they’re among the most suspenseful fiction I’ve read.

Being British, he’s also written quite a few good Cricket tales :smiley:

If I was to direct it, I would have him as a Spider.

My reason - Kafka took the name from the Ovid poem, which is about Arachne.(the weaver women who gets turned into a spider [or should I say, the first spider] because she made Athene angry).

What’s great about me doing the music for it, is that my solo project is called “The Arachne Complex” and this way the case WAY before I was asked to compose for it.

Anyway - how off topic am I getting here!

Giorgio Manganelli has been a specialist of novels without events. He was an experimental writer who played a lot with forms, always with paradoxical results.

One of his funniest tales is about a town (in my region), where he has never been, but that has always heard of by friends; so, he wrote this tale to make several hypotheses about the non-existence of this town.

Not only nothing happens, but probably the place where the story should be set does not exist.


My daughter would like to marry you, Keith. Your literary tastes and hers coincide exactly. :laughing:

Don’t worry, vic-k, and don’t get all grumpy. Nothing is going to happen with this story either. I know he’s taken. :wink:

Okay - I now have to plug a wonderful writer some of you may not have heard of. I’m a librarian, and a couple of months ago, my sister and I were at a meeting to choose the best books for teenagers published in 2007. My sister nominated Kate Thompson’s New Policeman, and I seconded her. A colleague said, “But nothing happens in that book.” At which my sister and I chorused, “A lot happens! It’s a murder mystery!” Then my sister, calming down, said, “I told a boy about that book and he took it out. When he returned it, he said, ‘That book was amazing. Nothing really happens in it, but I couldn’t put it down.’” (I’m obvously paraphrasing my sister and her young patron)

Seriously, this is an extremely clever and energetic book about what happens when the gulf between our world and faerie is breached, and, if you like kid’s fantasy (and Irish music) at all, you should read it.

I think it’s also a nod to another really great book - also Irish - called The Third Policeman, by Flann O’Brien. In this book, the main action happens before the book begins, and the plot - such as it is - is all about the consequences. It is also a murder mystery, except that we know from the outset who got killed, and how. I won’t say more in case you haven’t read it, but it’s very funny, very clever, and quite chilling.

Two other classics in which - perhaps - nothing happens? Alice in Wonderland and The Lathe of Heaven. Alice still freaks me out a bit, but I absolutey love Lathe. LeGuin is just a brilliant writer.