Reading Around The World

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Reading Around The World

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Jan 29, 2011, 10:58pm

Hello all, while skimming through the "how do you sort your books" thread, I noticed that many of you sort by country/region of the world. Glancing at my own bookshelf, I noticed that most of my books are by American or British authors, with a few other Europeans scattered about. I don't think I have anything from Africa or South America, and only a few from Asia...most of what I do have from other countries tends to be nonfiction/history books.

Does anyone have any recommendations of books from other parts of the globe, perhaps from countries or continents that many of us "westerners" seem unfortunately prone to overlooking? I would love the opportunity to learn more about literature around the world, and perhaps get a chance to read a few different things and open my eyes a bit to other cultures!

Edited: Jan 30, 2011, 12:57am

I also like to read stuff from around the world, particularly mythologies and epic poems, but I have read regular novels too so I'll give a few suggestions. It can be difficult sometimes because when it comes to works in translation many times the only works that get translated are the ones that are better suited to a western audience.

Let's see, I recently read Gassire's Lute which is a version of an oral epic poem by the Soninke people of Ghana (I hope I didn't remember that incorrectly...) It's not a straight translation though, since the poem isn't written, so it's more like a retelling, but this version has good impact in English.

Italo Calvino (Italy) and Carlos Luis Zafron (Spain) are European authors. I enjoyed If on a winter's night a traveler for its meta-aspects, and people rave about The Shadow of the Wind but I didn't get to it yet. (Soon!)

I recently acquired Troll: A Love Story which is magical realism by a Finnish author (I also haven't read it yet - so many books, so little time).

I read some Japanese, but only manga (comics) so I don't have anything to recommend that isn't.

For the Love of the Dark One is a small collection of beautiful poetry from the oral tradition of a 16th Century Indian woman.

And finally, there are some famous Latin American authors: novels by Mario Vargas Llosa (Peru), Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Colombia), Jorge Luis Borges (Argentina), and poetry by Pablo Neruda (Chile). Those are the popular ones, and there are many more lesser known, but no less talented authors that you can read if you look for them.

I look forward to others suggesting to this thread, because I want to read them too! (Prior to reading this thread I spent an hour on the internet trying to learn Welsh phonology so I could get a copy of the Mabinogion and not pronounce everything entirely wrong (just mostly wrong)).

Edited to add: I wish any of these touchstones would actually work!

Jan 30, 2011, 9:07am

I lurk shamelessly in the Reading Globally group to get recommendations of non-English literature. And there are a couple of presses that I watch as well: New Directions for classic literature (especially Latin American), Europa Editions for more modern European fiction, and Bitter Lemon press for European mystery and noir, Akashic Press for Central and South American and Cuban fiction. Archipelago Press for European and Mediterranean literature, Open Letter Press and Words Without Borders, each of which is good for all kinds of literature, including Africa and Asia.

Jan 31, 2011, 5:44pm

#2 ~ I have read Troll: A Love Story and it is very odd but it's a fascinating kind of odd which seems typical of Finnish literature. And to continue on the theme of Scandinavia...Halldór Laxness is an Icelandic author, his novel Independent People should be required reading, it's just phenomenal. Tarjei Vesaas and Agnar Mykle are a couple of Norwegian authors that are worth checking out and Hjalmar Söderberg and Selma Lagerlöf are a couple of my favorite Swedish authors. I've only read one Danish novel and I didn't care for it so I have no recommendations there.

Feb 1, 2011, 10:14am

I'm not sure if you are looking for non-American/European authors or non-American/European historical fiction........I have read the following:

Silk Road: A Novel of Eighth-Century China by Jeanne Larsen-might have a touch of sci-fi--told in poetry, novel and song

The Journeyer by Gary Jennings--the story of Marco Polo--a long book and not for the squeamish

Shogun by James Clavel--an old standby, but one of my favorites-imperial Japan

The Black Tower by Louis Bayard--this is the story of a detective trying to find out the fate of the children of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette's children. This is quite a good time piece of revolutionary France.

The Lacuma by Barbara Kingsolver--this is story of one man who was born in the U.S., but raised on the streets in Mexico City in the 1930's. Real personages such as Diego Rivera (artist) and Leon Trotsky are included. A good book!

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