Way back before The Sopranos made people angry/confused for cutting to black out of nowhere, books were messing with the heads of readers by daring to not use a period as the last typeset keystroke on the very last page. Here are 12 books that have no need for the standard last punctuation mark. Please help add to this list in the comments section–the lack of books by female authors is because I could not find any, not one, in hours and hours of searching.
Spoilers begin now.
The Castle by Franz Kafka (1926)
She held out her trembling hand to K. and had him sit down beside her, she spoke with great difficulty, it was difficult to understand her, but what she said
Why:Kafka died. There’s some debate about whether he would’ve even finished The Castle had he not died of tuberculosis–in a 1922 letter to his friend and executor Max Brod, he stated he was giving up on it. But Kafka also told Brod on multiple occasions that the ending would involve K. living and eventually dying in the village, culminating on K.’s death bed as he receives a notice from the castle that his “legal claim to live in the village was not valid, yet, taking certain auxiliary circumstances into account, he was permitted to live and work there.”
Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol (1842)
Nothing will be successful until each one of us feels that, just as in the epoch when people took arms and rose up against the enemy, so he must rise up against falsity. As a Russian, as one bound to you by ties of blood, of one and the same blood, I now address you. I address those of you who have at least some notion of what nobility of mind is. I invite you to remember the duty each man faces in any place. I invite you to consider your duty more closely, and the obligation of your earthly service, because we all have only a dim idea of it now, and we hardly…
Why: It’s a big cliffhanger. Dead Souls was the first in a planned trilogy, and was meant to be a modern retelling of Inferno (while also containing Homeric aspects) as Chichikov travels around and encountering a series of strange townspeople and landowners. Gogol supposedly completed the trilogy’s second part (the corresponding Purgatorio volume, in which Chichikov undergoes his purification), but destroyed it right before dying. In her book Designing Dead Souls, Susanne Fusso argues that Gogol only would’ve continued with a Part Two and Part Three if the reading public embraced Part One, and that he intentionally broke off the narrative (something he’d done before) in Part One to see if they’d demand a Part Two. Continue reading →