4. Codex Seraphinianus
Many readers throughout the ages, from the dawn of recorded literature until now, have tried to make their writings obscure and unusual for various reasons. Even in more modern times, writers have employed different tactics, such as using specialized terminology, abstraction, and what feels almost like a wholly different language, to convey their points. Sometimes, a reader can be relieved of their biases in order to see the world as if for the first time, through a different lens.
Such is it with one of the most bizarre books of all of history, Codex Seraphinianus, a work created by Italian artist, architect, and thinker Luigi Serafini during the late 1970s, though it contains medieval imagery and surreal illustrations. The work wasn’t published until 1981, and even with its modern date, it’s still almost completely indecipherable, another work written in a coded language that no one can figure out. The work is somewhere in between surrealist art, with heads sliced into little, cleanly cut sections, drifting off and turning into other objects in little pieces on the ground, and science, with what looks like an anatomical description of the human body from the old 1800s anatomy texts.
The book clearly has a plot, but, like others on this list, the language in it is almost wholly unintelligible, not based on an alphabet used by any language known to humans—and this was probably the artist-author’s intention. In an increasingly information-oriented age, the subtle implications of encryption and coded messages are very present, making us question what we’re doing with all of this language we have and how we’re organizing it. Maybe one day, this work will be understood, but as of now, it’s more of an artwork with an illegible script than an easily readable book, that’s for sure.