There’s an “enchanting” way to get into world literature and that is to see the connecting theme of the rise and fall of families: Dream of the Red Chamber from the eighteenth century is generally acknowledged to be the pinnacle of Chinese fiction and details the slow decline and fall of the Chia family.
A Chinese metaphor is introduced in the course of the novel: a family could be like a dead bug or insect still somehow clinging to a wall without having fallen down yet…this is supposed to give the reader an image of the Chia family as it wanes.
In the great The Magnificent Ambersons, by Booth Tarkington, the Ambersons rise and fall from 1873 (when the financial crisis thrust them upwards whether through dumb luck or shrewdness) to their disintegration over the next decades when the “magnificence” has evaporated completely.
This motif of family decline underlies the Japanese classic The Makioka Sisters of Tanizaki (died in 1965).
“Meanwhile the family fortunes were declining. There was no doubt, then, that Itani was being kind when when she urged Sachiko to ‘forget the past.’
“The best days for the Makiokas had lasted perhaps into the mid-twenties. Their prosperity lived now only in the mind of the Osakan who knew the old days well.
“Indeed, even in the mid-twenties, extravagance and bad management were having their effect on the family business. The first of a series of crises had overtaken them then.”
(The Makioka Sisters, Seidensticker translation, Vintage Books, 1985, page 8)
Whereas history is often centered on the rise and fall of empires, eras, periods, world orders, literature is often centered on the rise and fall of families, sometimes mostly off on their own, sometimes laid low by historical events and contingencies that overwhelmed or blindsided the family.