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The author of Midnight's Children and The Satanic Verses recommends works by Kurt Vonnegut, Angela Carter, and more:
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (Vintage, $15). The Devil comes to Moscow and, of course, makes trouble, accompanied by a cat shooting six-guns and an associate who disappears when he turns sideways. But Satan also helps the Master, a tortured writer, recover a manuscript he'd written and burned. One of the greatest Russian novels. Stalin didn't like it.
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The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut (Dial $16). This is a real delight. Among its leading characters is a man who, along with his dog, accidentally enters a chrono-synclastic infundibulum and gets stretched out across space and time. The inhabitants of Tralfamadore meanwhile distort the whole of human history to bring home one of their own. (The Great Wall of China and the Kremlin are messages from Tralfamadore. Draw your own conclusions.)
Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban (Gollancz, $18). This unjustly forgotten 1980 novel is unlike anything else: Its portrait of a world after a nuclear holocaust — the explosion of the "1 Big 1" — is written in language that's brilliantly fractured, as if a bomb has exploded there as well.
The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter (Penguin, $15). Carter's sensual, erotic retellings of fairy tales and folk tales blend Snow White, Red Riding Hood, and Beauty (of "Beauty and the Beast") into shape-shifting creations that are Carter's own. A girl attacked by a wolf can love the wolf or even become a wolf herself; the beauty can be beastly, too.
Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo (Grove, $14). Jorge Luis Borges thought this short, hypnotic novel to be one of the best ever written, and Gabriel García Márquez said it freed him to imagine the world of One Hundred Years of Solitude. A man is told by his dying mother to go find his father. He embarks on the journey and falls into a nightmarish world that may be populated entirely by ghosts.
The Nonexistent Knight by Italo Calvino (Harvest, $15). This is a fable, set in the time of Charlemagne, about an empty suit of armor that believes itself to be a knight and keeps itself going by willpower and strict adherence to the rules of chivalry. The other fables in Calvino's Our Ancestors trilogy are just as good.
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