I could wax lyrical about Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie all day. She is one of my favourite writers; but as I have not explored the work of many other Nigerian authors, I decided to choose someone else for my reading challenge.
I’ve never been to Russia, but I’ve drunk plenty of vodka. Does that count? Of course not, but the vodka thing really is no cliché. Even in the novella I read for the Russian leg of my challenge, it’s mentioned.
Contrary to confused belief, Five Fingers for Marseilles is not South Africa’s first Western. Our film industry is well-aged and with it comes eons of storytelling ingrained in our very souls. And this Western is neither the first nor is it original. It’s a pastiche of passion composed of Fordian frames and Leonean tension.
If you live in South Africa and have never met a Zimbabwean, you live under a rock. At one I point, I had two colleagues from Zimbabwe, one of whom (along with a South African colleague) recommended Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga. Her novel marked the first time in my challenge that I chose a book recommended by someone from that country. It’s something I hope to do more of, as I progress in my travels. Nervous Conditions also ticks the other boxes for this challenge: the author is from Zimbabwe and the story is set in Zimbabwe.
When I found War of the Newts on the shelves of a secondhand bookstore, I remembered reading about it in an article from the Los Angeles Review of Books. Back then the story appealed to me, and upon finding the book and discovering the author was from the Czech Republic (a country I had not yet travelled to for my reading challenge), it inevitably became my next destination.
Algeria is a country I knew next to nothing about; all I really knew before this reading challenge is that it’s in North Africa. Besides the fact that reading a book from every country in the world is a massive task to undertake, what makes the challenge even tougher is trying to find books written by someone from a certain country and set in that country.
One of the interesting aspects of my reading challenge is uncovering my connections to and knowledge of each country as I select and read a book from that part of the world. Canada is the fourth country I arrived at in my literary armchair travels; and going in, I knew there would be several connections. Literary ones had to do with one of my favourite authors: Margaret Atwood.
Spain is close to my heart. My parents and brother lived in Madrid in the early ‘80s. Growing up, and to this day, my parents’ house is adorned with an assortment of Spanish paraphernalia.
Long before this challenge was even a kernel in my mind, I arranged one of my bookshelves into countries and regions. One of these is devoted to Japanese literature, with Haruki Murakami’s presence predominating. I’m not sure exactly what prompted my impassioned foray into Japanese literature. Perhaps it was an unconscious seed planted from the memory of my Japanese childhood friend Megumi, and of my aunt, uncle, and their youngest son’s time spent in Tokyo.
My exams are over and it’s time to get serious about this challenge, including the post that should accompany each book and country after I complete it. The natural starting point for my challenge of reading a book from every country in the world was my place of birth: South Africa.