This past week the the Nobel Prize in Literature was announced. It was given to Mo Yan. Sadly an author I have not only not read but had not even heard of until the announcement. I realized to my dismay that my reading is not only skewed to Young Adult, which I have already wrestled with and made my peace with, but far more upsetting to me it has become insular. I read American and British authors. I have not gone back and looked but I would wager that every single author in I have read in the past 5 years is American, English or possibly Irish. This makes me sad.
The majority of Nobel laureates are not native English writers and of them I have, maybe, read 5. I am fairly sure the 5 I have read are the same 5 we have all read as a part of a world literature course in high school or college. We read them because we “had” to, because we were being made to expand our narrow world view. Regrettably, it didn’t take. My reading worldview remained narrow. I have read broadly historically but narrowly on a world scale if you use the Noble Prize as a measure. And I would even argue that the Nobel Prize for literature is narrow in its scope. The peoples of Africa and South America and Asia are vastly underrepresented.
I bet I am not alone in this either. I bet we read those who write in English mostly. And I wonder is it is that all cultures read mostly their own culture or if America has taken over books like we have taken over movies and fast food and clothing. Are we the monster that can’t be sated? Do tweens in France look in their bookstore in see row upon row of paranormal love triangle romance? Do Brazilian children learn to read with Click, Clack, Moo and Goodnight Moon? I hope not. I hope that there is a world of books out there that I have just not discovered.
In an effort to really expand my world, and not because a teacher or curriculum thinks I need to, but because I think I need to, I am beginning my own Around the World in 80 Months. Yes, I would love to do Around the World in 80 Days, but let’s all be honest about the fact that I have a life and commitments and reading time comes not very often now. But 80 months should be enough. It should be enough to get through most of the non-English based Nobel laureates. One a month, I can do that. And I think I might start in November with Big Breasts & Wide Hips by Mo Yan. Care to join me?