In order to show our loyalty to traditional forms of writing, at the end of March the Global Voices team proposed a challenge around UNESCO Word Book Day. We have asked our contributors and readers to pick and read a book representing a country whose literature they did not know before and to share their experience on their sites.
We have seen posts tagged with #gvbook09 popping out from the early days of April. Those early ones were dedicated to the preparations and process of choosing the book, the author, the country.
Rising Voices El Oso decided to dedicate his time to Orhan Pamuk’s Istanbul: Memories and the City placing the author in the context it was written:
In 2005 a criminal case was opened against Pamuk in Turkey for statements he made in a Swiss magazine about the alleged Turkish massacres of Kurds and Armenians. Pamuk’s case was taken up by fellow writers advocating for freedom of speech and, more controversially, became a litmus test for Turkey’s entrance into the European Union.
Karlo Mikhail, a blogger from the Philippines took time picking the right title, and in the end chose something easily available:
I finally found something for the Global Voices Book Challenge: Torgny Lindgren’s The Way of a Serpent. There are so many countries whose literatures I have never been acquainted before. But this Swedish novella in translation is the only one already at hand. Bought it very cheap late last year along with something by Heidegger (which I gave away knowing I won’t be needing it yet anytime soon).
Edi, a blogger that defines herself as “an African American school librarian in Indianapolis” describes her book choice this way:
My selection will be perfect for April: Aleutian Sparrow by Karen Hesse is the story of native Aleutians who are relocated during WWII when the Japanese invaded the islands. The story is told in the voice of a young girl and written in poem form.
This week marks the final week of the challenge, so you still have time to join us! And just to tempt you a little bit more we present a few more of our reading adventures.
Jad posted about The Angel of Grozny by Asne Seierstad coming to an interesting conclusion:
I have always been interested in Chechnya and Albania because not having a Holy Land doesn’t mean they should be ignored and never receive support.
I’m not into novels nor literature in general but I kept gazing the book and going through its pages for some good time, I was not sure if I wanted to invest any more in a novel (it’s not a novel but the border between her journalistic facts and her novelistic style is very imperceptible) I don’t enjoy novels, I never did but my friend insisted on buying it and she did.
I borrowed the book later and starting reading it and after couple of chapters I started to believe that the best way to share a documented journalistic facts would be in a novel form.
The Book of Sand by Argentinian author Jorge Luis Borges and chosen for the challenge by Malagasy blogger Lova Rakotomalala proved to be extremely relevant to current reality of Madagascar:
As Madagascar tries to find an exit to its political dead end, such assessment of the true representation of a group is hitting very close to home for me at this time. No entity can ever claim that it represents perfectly a population. However, a group has to agree on a set of rules to live by and tolerate each other. When those agreements are rendered meaningless for whatever reasons, the opus of the members (like the collection of classic books initiative) usually ends in ashes.
Even though, this particular story brought me back to the crisis back home, I welcomed the rest of the short stories as an escape to the accrued violence there for the past few days.’
Niranjana, an Indian blogger in Canada read ‘Paradise Reclaimed’ written by Halldor Laxness however results in feeling of disappointment. This Icelandic piece of literature picked up from the shelf turned out to be a hard read:
I also think much of my inability to relate to this book stems from my ignorance of Icelandic folklore–I can tell I’m missing all sort of references to myths and historical events that would have made this book a much richer read. This omission is of course entirely my fault (I should have hunted out the Cliffs Notes), but if I had read something about Iceland, I couldn’t have chosen this book for the challenge. Anyway, the overall feeling was rather like reading Beckham’s autobiography without ever having seen the man kick a ball. Not satisfactory.’
Fay Sheco, who chose Wolf Totem by Jiang Rong is satisfied both with the book, as well as with the challenge itself:
In the early days of this blog I tried a few book challenges and found them constricting; this one-off book challenge suits my current way of reading and blogging, and I look forward to reading the other challenge-generated blog posts, which are to be tagged #gvbook09 for easy searching.’
For some of us the book challenge results in need of meeting the author himself. Senor Pablo for instance decided to read The Islamist by Ed Hussain and hopes to meet the writer soon:
Come September Eleven and suddenly the world changed. Another question that cropped up was the differences in the way Muslims interpret Islam. I could not understand the need for fundamentalism, although it does exist in most religions. This book will explain it all and that is why I think it is a good read if you want to know a Muslim's experience in joining a fundamentalist group and left. It answered the many questions that I wanted answered. :)
I just heard that Ed Hussain is heading this region soon. I would love the opportunity to meet the author in person!
Bahraini blogger Bint Batutta describes the story of a book about the nuclear reactor disaster of Chernobyl (Memories of a Meltdown by Mohamed Makhzangi ) together with the circumstances of the event:
And what of the site of the nuclear reactor today? It is enclosed in a large concrete sarcophagus, and there is a thirty-kilometre Exclusion Zone around Chernobyl where officially nobody is allowed to live – but there are homeless men and women who do. See this photo essay called Chernobyl Stalkers.
There is still much more out there, so if you are interested in the results, look for posts tagged with #gvbook09.
The challenge is still on, so pick up a book, read it and let us know what you think of it! Do not forget to tag your posts or leave a comment on our site, so we can share your experience.