I'm not talking about maximalist novels, or experimental literature or metaphysical literature. I'm talking about books where the author is not interested in making it easy for the reader to figure out what the main point of the work is. These works rely on the "ah-ha" or "eureka" experience that we feel when we struggle to figure something out then finally get it. This would even include the poetry of Propertius as well as medeval allegories such as Piers Plowman. However, to the best of my knowledge Faust II could be described as the first major work in Western Literature (discounting Propertius and medieval allegories) to work in this genre, then maybe Beaudelaire and the French symbolists. Some of Dickinson's poems could be included in this genre and she was mostly writing between 1860-1870 but in Prose I would have to say that Ulysses would be the first major work in English would belong to the puzzle genre.
Not all experimental literature would belong to the puzzle genre and you could make an argument for and against that all puzzle literature is experimental. I say this because with some experimental literature it is easy to get the point of the work on the first reading. I would define experimental literature as any literature which does not adhere to the orthodox method of storytellings which to encapsulate in one sentence would be something like putting characters into a conflict then narrating the key events which lead to the resolution of the conflict. Admittedly, it is difficult to distinguish experimental works from puzzle works (or since 'puzzle' is not an adjective I'll use 'enigmatic') because it is difficult to draw the line between experiment and tried and tested. For example, these days we've seen so many instances of films where the director chops up the narrative and makes it hard to follow that this can no longer be called an experiment but is now an acceptable thing to do and one that the audience can follow, albeit a small audience. So although such films are no longer experimental, they are still considered puzzles which require work on the spectator's part to understand.
I also want to distinguish the puzzle genre from the metaphysical genre. So 'metaphysical' as defined on the site philosophyinfilm is defined as:
- A metaphysical film addresses questions related to the field of metaphysics in its narrative, either directly or indirectly.
- A metaphysical film uses the unique elements of the filmmaking process (cinematography, editing, special effects, etc.) to direct attention to the question of “reality.”
- A metaphysical film uses visual effects to transcend reality in a way that implicitly asks (or attempts to answer) metaphysical questions.
It should be obvious to think of a literary work which is difficult to understand but whose main point does meet one of the conditions above.
So what I'm asking here is have literary critics already given this genre a formal name? More examples of this genre would be: Finnegans Wake, Gravity's Rainbow, the Cantos by E. Pound, the poetry of Octavio Paz, H Crane, Sylvia Plath, certain films by Fellini, Goddard, David Lynch, etc.