Morgan’s intrepid literary project underscores the crucial importance of stretching the boundaries of one’s aesthetic and...



Exploring the world, one book at a time.

American bookstores stock only a tiny selection of translated works, making it nearly impossible for readers to gain access to world literature. In her lively, debut book, journalist and blogger Morgan, regretting that she has been “a literary xenophobe,” recounts her project to spend a year reading one book, translated or written in English, from every country in the world. That project proved more difficult than she imagined: In many countries, publishers release thousands of translated copies of Anglophone authors, rather than support indigenous writers. The literary world, therefore, has been dominated by books from a few nations, and readers “can never entirely remove the blinkers and filters put on our reading goggles.” Censorship has impeded publication, too, as Morgan discovered when she tried to find literature from North Korea. A cultural delegate responded that “he was not aware of any adult fiction produced in the entire seven-decade history of the republic” but only politically oriented works that “demonstrated loyalty, honour, and self-sacrifice for the motherland.” The ubiquity of English has had an impact on academic writing as well as commercial books. Scholars worry “that other languages are denuded of the specialist terms needed to express complex ideas and discoveries” by the pressure to write in English. Some fiction writers, striving for publication, try to imitate Western-style novels rather than draw upon their own cultures. Reading indigenous works that evoke a new time and place, though—like a hugely popular young-adult series written by a Samoan housewife—confronted Morgan with ideas and views that felt startlingly fresh. An appendix lists 196 books that the author read on her journey, including selections from Bhutan, Cape Verde, Ivory Coast, Iraq and Sierra Leone; most were published by small, independent presses.

Morgan’s intrepid literary project underscores the crucial importance of stretching the boundaries of one’s aesthetic and intellectual worlds.

Pub Date: May 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-63149-067-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: Jan. 14, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2015

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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