Morgan, Ann "Reading the World. Confessions of a Literary Explorer" (aka "The World Between Two Covers: Reading the Globe") - 2015
Last year, I wrote my blogpost "Travel the World Through Books".
I must admit, I have not progressed much, I do try to read about different kinds of countries all the time but a lot of them come just from the "usual suspects". It is in my thoughts all the time and I do choose new books accordingly.
However, here is a lady who managed to read a book from every independent country - 196 of them - in one year. It was so interesting to follow her quest for literature from around the world, on how she wrote to people in small countries and begged them to translate books into English for her. Fantastic! It means she leaves a list for all of us that we can follow and hopefully get there ourselves one day. Look here: A Year of Reading the World.
It doesn't mean I will read exactly the same books as Ann Morgan did, I have read quite a few from different countries already and I might choose some others from other countries where there are more available translations into German, for example.
But the book wasn't just interesting because of my original quest. The author tells us a lot about the world of literature and how we are more or less forced to read from what is made available to us in the language(s) we speak. For example, she mentions a list compiled by French scholar Raymond Querneau who put together an "ideal library". He asked several writers to choose their 100 favourite titles from a list of 3,500 works and in the end he had 60 French books, 9 British/American ones, 6 Germans, 3 Spanish, 1 each Hebrew and Arabic ... I wasn't too surprised. Since I have been a member of an international book club for most of this century (Ha, doesn't that sound like a long time?) and one of our conditions for any book we read is that it must be available in English, I have discovered that more translations are made into German than into English and not just translations from English into German but from many other languages, as well. A fact that the author also talks about when she mentions that non-German fiction makes up more than 50 per cent of Germany's bestsellers. She doesn't even mention a percentage of translated books published in the English language, only that it is a very tiny number. I loved, of course, that she calls my home country "a nation of book lovers".
The author doesn't write reviews about the books in this work but that is not necessary, you can check it out in her blog. But she gives us more, she gives us a background about literature around the world and how we can find our way through it.
So, whether you want to conquer the world by reading it or just would like to enlarge your spectrum of literature, this is a great book to read. It gives you the instigation to read more books that are not in your comfort zone and thereby getting to know the world better, even your own place in it.
One quote I liked and totally agree with
"As readers, we don’t travel. In fact for many of us that’s precisely the point: we open books to experience ideas and places that we don’t have the budget, time or stomach to go through in real life."
Needless to say, I am following her blog in the meantime and am anxious to read her next book, "Beside Myself".
From the back cover:
"In 2012, the world arrived in London for the Olympics .. .and Ann Morgan went out to meet it. She read her way around all the globe’s 196 independent countries (plus one extra), sampling one book from every nation. It wasn't easy. Many languages have next to nothing translated into English; there are tiny, tucked-away places where very little is written down at all; some governments don't like to let works of art leak out to corrupt Westerners.
Her literary adventures shed light on the issues that affect us all: personal, political, national and global. Using her quest as a starting point, this book explores questions such as: What is cultural heritage? How do we define national identity? Is it possible to overcome censorship and propaganda? And how can we celebrate, challenge and change our remarkable world?"
You can find the list here. And these are the books I read.
Albania Ismail Kadaré The Fall of the Stone City /
Afghanistan Khaled Hosseini The Kite Runner; A Thousand Splendid Suns /
Australia Markus Zusak The Book Thief /
Bangladesh Tahmima Anam The Good Muslim /
Belarus Svetlana Alexievich Voices from Chernobyl /
Belgium Hergé The Adventures of Tintin / Stefan Brijs The Angel Maker /
Bosnia and Herzegovina Zlata Filipovic Zlata’s Diary / Ivo Andric The Bridge on the Drina /
Brazil Paulo Coelho The Almchemist; Brida /
Cameroon Imbolo Mbue Behold the Dreamers
Canada Alice Munro Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Love, Marriage; Runaway / Carol Shields Jane Austen; The Stone Diaries / Michael Ondaatje / Timothy Findley /
Chile Isabel Allende The House of the Spirits /
China Cao Xuequin Dream of the Red Chamber /
Colombia Gabriel García Márquez Love in the Time of Cholera, One Hundred Years of Solitude, The General in His Labyrinth /
Denmark Peter Høeg Smilla’s Sense of Snow /
Egypt Ahdaf Soueif The Map of Love / Naguib Mahfouz / Alaa Al Aswany The Yacoubian Building /
Finland Mika Waltari The Egyptian /
France Marie NDiaye Rosie Carpe /
Germany Günter Grass / Heinrich Böll / Jurek Becker Jacob the Liar / Herman Hesse Siddhartha / Thomas Mann /
Hungary Imre Kertész Fatelessness /
India Rohinton Mistry Family Matters; A Fine Balance / Amitav Ghosh River of Smoke / Vikram Seth A Suitable Boy /
Ireland James Joyce Ulysses /
Israel David Grossman To the End of the Land / Amos Oz A Tale of Love and Darkness /
Italy Primo Levi /
Japan Haruki Murakami Kafka on the Shore /
Kyrgyzstan Chinghiz Aitmatov Jamilia /
Lebanon Amin Maalouf Samarkand / Khalil Gibran The Prophet /
Netherlands Harry Mulisch The Discovery of Heaven / Tessa de Loo / Kader Abdolah The House of the Mosque /
Norway Per Petterson Out Stealing Horses / Knut Hamsun /
Peru Mario Vargas Llosa Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter; The Storyteller /
Portugal José Saramago /
Romania Herta Müller / Mircea Eliade
Russia Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich / Leo Tolstoy Anna Karenina
Senegal Mariama Bâ So Long a Letter /
South Africa Nelson Mandela The Long Walk to Freedom / Alan Paton Cry, the Beloved Country /
Spain Miguel de Cervantes Don Quixote / Carlos Ruiz Zafón The Shadow of the Wind /
Suriname Cynthia Mcleod The Cost of Sugar /
Sweden Henning Mankell / Jonas Jonasson The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared /
Switzerland Friedrich Dürrenmatt / Gottfried Keller
Syria Rafik Schami
Trinidad and Tobago VS Naipaul A House for Mr Biswas /
Turkey Orhan Pamuk Snow / Latife Tekin / Elif Safak The Forty Rules of Love / Sabahattin Ali / Yaşar Kemal / Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar The Time Regulation Institute /
United Kingdom Virginia Woolf / Kazuo Ishiguro / JK Rowling /
United States of America Norton Juster The Phantom Tollbooth / Barbara Kingsolver The Poisonwood Bible / Cormac Mccarthy / Eliot Weinberger / Jhumpa Lahiri / Amy Tan /