Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Morgan, Ann "Reading the World"

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.

Afghanistan Khaled Hosseini The Kite Runner; A Thousand Splendid Suns /
Albania Ismail Kadaré The Fall of the Stone City (Darka e Gabuar) /
Australia Markus Zusak The Book Thief /
Bangladesh Tahmima Anam The Good Muslim /
Belarus Svetlana Alexievich Voices from Chernobyl  (Чернобыльская молитва/Černobylskaja molitva) /
Belgium Hergé The Adventures of Tintin / Stefan Brijs The Angel Maker (De engelenmaker) /
Bosnia and Herzegovina Zlata Filipovic Zlata’s Diary  (Zlatin dnevnik: otroštvo v obleganem Sarajevu) / Ivo Andric The Bridge on the Drina (На Дрини Ћуприја or Na Drini Ćuprija) / Saša Stanišić How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone (Wie der Soldat das Grammofon repariert) 
Brazil Paulo Coelho The Almchemist (O Alquimista); Brida (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 (La Casa de los Espíritus) /
China Cao Xuequin Dream of the Red Chamber (红楼梦/Hung lou meng/aka The Story of the Stone) /
Colombia Gabriel García Márquez Love in the Time of Cholera, (El amor en los tiempos del cólera),  One Hundred Years of Solitude,  (Cien años de soledad), The General in His Labyrinth (El general en su laberinto) /
Denmark Peter Høeg Smilla’s Sense of Snow (Frøken Smillas fornemmelse for sne) /
Dominican Republic Alvarez, Julia "In the Time of the Butterflies" - 1994
Egypt Ahdaf Soueif The Map of Love / Naguib Mahfouz / Alaa Al Aswany The Yacoubian Building (عمارة يعقوبيان , Imarat Ya’qubian) /
Estonia Jaan Kross Professor Martens' Departure (Professor Martensi ärasõit
Finland Mika Waltari The Egyptian (Sinuhe Egyptiläinen) /
France Marie NDiaye Rosie Carpe (Rosie Carpe) /
Germany Günter Grass / Heinrich Böll / Jurek Becker Jacob the Liar (Jakob der Lügner) / Jenny Erpenbeck The End of Days (Aller Tage Abend) / Herman Hesse Siddhartha (Siddhartha) / Thomas Mann / Christa Wolf They Divided the Sky (Der geteilte Himmel)
Hungary Imre Kertész Fatelessness (Sorstalanság) /
India Rohinton Mistry Family Matters; A Fine Balance / Amitav Ghosh River of Smoke / Vikram Seth A Suitable Boy /
Indonesia Andrea Hirata The Rainbow Troops (Lasykar Pelangi)
Ireland James Joyce Ulysses /
Israel David Grossman To the End of the Land (אשה בורחת מבשורה/Isha Nimletet Mi'Bshora) / Amos Oz A Tale of Love and Darkness (סיפור על אהבה וחוHשך, Sipur) /
Italy Primo Levi If Not Now, When? (Se non ora, quando) / Roberto Saviano Gomorrah (Gomorra)
Japan Haruki Murakami Kafka on the Shore (海辺のカフカ Umibe no Kafuka) /
Kyrgyzstan Chinghiz Aitmatov Jamilia (Джамиля - Jamilia) /
Lebanon Amin Maalouf Samarkand (Samarcande) / Khalil Gibran The Prophet /
Morocco Benali, Abdelkader Wedding by the Sea (Bruiloft aan zee) /
Netherlands Harry Mulisch The Discovery of Heaven (De Ontdekking van de Hemel) / Tessa de Loo The Twins (De Tweeling) / Kader Abdolah The House of the Mosque (Het huis van de moskee) /
Nigeria Achebe, Chinua Things Fall Apart
Norway Per Petterson Out Stealing Horses (Ut og stjæle hester) / Knut Hamsun /
Peru Mario Vargas Llosa Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter (La tía Julia y el escribidor); The Storyteller (El Hablador) /
Poland Tokarczuk, Olga "Primeval and other Times" (Prawiek i inne czasy)
Portugal José Saramago Blindness (O Ensaio sobre a Cegueira) /
Romania Herta Müller The Appointment (Heute wär ich mir lieber nicht begegnet) / Mircea Eliade "Marriage in Heaven" (Nuntă în cer)
Russia Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich / Leo Tolstoy Anna Karenina
Saudi Arabia Rajaa Alsanea Girls of Riyadh (بنات الرياض‎ Banāt al-Riyāḍ)
Senegal Mariama Bâ So Long a Letter /
South Africa Nelson Mandela The Long Walk to Freedom / Alan Paton Cry, the Beloved Country /
South Korea Han Kang "The Vegetarian" (채식주의자/Ch'angbi) /
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  Dürrenmatt Der Richter und sein Henker/The Judge and his Hangman / Gottfried Keller / Syria Rafik Schami 
Tanzania Abdulrazak Gurnah Pilgrim's Way 
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 /
Zimbabwe Tsitsi Dangarembga Nervous Conditions /


  1. I loved this book!!! I too am working on her list, albeit slowly. Her novel is fantastic. http://keepthewisdom.blogspot.com/2016/03/beside-myself.html I loved reading your list. I have read many of them.

    1. I'm not exactly working on "her" list because I was trying to work on a list before I read the book but I'm sure she can give me some ideas for countries where I don't have any myself. ;)

      Anyway, thanks for the link to your post about the novel. I will head over there asap.

      Have a good weekend,

  2. What a wonderful idea, I've read books from 21 of the countries, but I mainly read American and British authors.

    1. That's exactly what the author complains about, that there are not enough translations into English to choose from. But her list is definitely fantastic and you can check it out with the link.

      Happy Weekend,

  3. Hi Marianne, this looks like a goodie. Please bring this over to Books You Loved: November so everyone can see it. Cheers from Carole's Chatter

    1. I was thinking the same. And I will certainly do that. Often I don't make it until the end of the month but since you told me it doesn't matter when I read the book, I can add it now.

      Have a great weekend,