The OF Blog: World Cup of Fiction: June 16 Matches

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

World Cup of Fiction: June 16 Matches

Although at the time of this posting, one of the matches has been complete and the other in progress, the literary match-ups for today may or may not prove to be different from their sporting counterparts.

Group H

 Chile - Sports nickname:  La Roja.  World Cup appearances, 8 (1930, 1950, 1962, 1966, 1974, 1982, 1998, 2010).  World Cup Championships, 0.

Strengths:  Chile over the past thirty years has had an impressive number of writers emerge upon the international scene.  While most readers will probably recognize the magic realist Isabel Allende, whose works have been translated into dozens of languages ever since House of Spirits was released in the 1980s, lately two other Chilean authors have risen to international prominence.  Alberto Fuguet was named by Time magazine and one of the more influential Latino people rising in the 21st century, and with works ranging from Mala Onda (Bad Vibes) to Pelícuas de mi vida (Pictures of My Life), not to mention his starting of the McOndo movement in South America as a counter to the magic realists, he certainly is one of the more influential writers of the past 15 years.  But the superstar of this group is the late, great Roberto Bolaño, who currently is enjoying a Jimi Hendrix-like posthumous rise in popularity in Anglophone countries, where translations of his works are still being published at the rate of 1-2 a year.  And to think that with these modern authors, not as much was said here about the wonderful poet Gabriela

Weaknesses:  The New Chilean Narrative may not be as familiar to the European audiences as it is to the Latin American and (to a lesser extent) the North American audiences.  In addition, the hyperrealism of the NCN might be off-putting to several readers who prefer magic realism or a softer look at realist works.

Honduras- Sports Nickname:  Los Catrachos.  World Cup appearances, 2 (1982, 2010).  World Cup Championships, 0.

Strengths:  For the past century and a half, ever since its definitive independence from the short-lasting union of the five Central American states (quick fact - the blue/white/blue stripes in the flags of Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and even Costa Rica to an extent are based on the Atlantic and Pacific oceans in blue surrounding the land represented in white), Honduras has been known for his poets.  Although not as famous as Nicaragua's Rubén Dário or El Salvador's Roque Dalton, Honduran poets have included Rebecca Becerra, Rubén Izaguirre, Juan Ramón Molina, and César Indiano.  Honduras also was the birthplace for one of the more important Latin American short fiction writers of the 20th century, Augusto Monterroso.  Other Honduran short fiction writers include Julio Escoto and Eduardo Bahr, whose works I know more from reputation than from actual experience.

Weaknesses:  The Honduran literary side, with a few exceptions, has not enjoyed much success outside of Central America.  As an unknown group, with not as much of a recent surge in literary output as other Latin American nations, Honduras seems to be at a distinct advantage in its group.

Prediction:  The Chilean narrative firepower will eventually crack through the Honduran poetic defense and score enough to gain the victory.

Spain - Sports Nickname:  La Furia Roja.  World Cup appearances, 13 (1934, 1950, 1962, 1966, 1978, 1982, 1986, 1990, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010).  World Cup Championships, 0.

Strengths:  Spain may have one of the strongest literary sides in the entire World Cup of Fiction.  What other nation can trot out the possible father of the European novel, Miguel Cervantes?  And then there is the host of El Siglo del Oro poets and dramatists, with Lopé de Vega and Calderón de la Barca being foremost.  And then there is the 20th century poet and dramtist, Federico García Lorca, whose works are haunting.  Others may want to point out the outstanding success that Carlos Ruiz Zafón has had in the first decade of the 21st century, selling tens of millions of copies of his two adult novels published during that time.  And this strong lineup is augmented with writers such as Clara Sánchez, Manuel Vicent, and Luis Leante, who each have produced strong works in the 21st century.

Weaknesses:  As with their sports counterparts, the Spanish literary side is a strong side that inexplicably falters in the knockout rounds.  Although the Spanish are the team to beat in the first round, their poetic and dramatic strengths may be countered by formidable forces from the other advancing nations.

Switzerland - Sports Nickname:  Die Schweizer Nati.  World Cup Appearances, 9 (1934, 1938, 1950, 1954, 1962, 1966, 1994, 2006, 2010).  World Cup Championships, 0.

Strengths:  The Swiss literary side is able to bust out German, French, Italian, and Romansh literary output on unsuspecting opponents.  Beginning with the Minnesingers, the Swiss have also enjoyed centuries-long tradition of oral storytelling, ballads, and epic poetry.  The Legend of William Tell, after all, is quite memorable today and may be the most recognizable Swiss work of fiction outside of Johann Wyss's The Swiss Family Robinson, a perennial children's lit favorite.  

Weaknesses:  Despite having four languages to play with, Swiss literature on a whole is not as renowned as that of its larger neighbors (Germany, France, Italy).  Trying to figure out which linguistic group has produced the best Swiss literature may divide the literary side as well.

Prediction:  Spain's multi-genre attack will be too much for the Swiss to hold off.  After a tough initial half, by the second half, the Spanish will prevail.

Group A

   South Africa - Sports Nickname:  Bafana Bafana.  World Cup appearances, 3 (1998, 2002, 2010).  World Cup Championships, 0.

Strengths:  South Africa has produced three Nobel-level writers:  Nadine Gordimer, J.M. Coetzee, and Alan Paton.  Several of their works have addressed the country's sordid 20th century history of Apartheid.

Weaknesses:  Apartheid's debilitating effects on the education of 85% of its population until the past 20 years has led to a paucity of non-white South African literature becoming widely known outside of South Africa.

Uruguay - Sports Nickname:  Charrúas.  World Cup appearances, 11 (1930, 1950, 1954, 1962, 1966, 1970, 1974, 1986, 1990, 2002, 2010).  World Cup Championships, 2 (1930, 1950).

Strengths:  Although Uruguay is the weak sister to Argentina and Brazil's literary sides, there have been some important writers associated with Uruguay.  Horacio Quiroga was born in Uruguay and although he lived most of his life in Argentina, he often is associated with Uruguay.  His short fiction, in turns apocalyptic and terrifying, are among the best Latin American short fiction of the 20th century.  Juan Carlos Onetti is another prominent  Uruguayan writer, whose essays and short fictions have been very influential in South America over the second half of the 20th century.

Weaknesses:  Despite the quality of the writers associated with them, Uruguay's side just lacks the numbers of prominent writers and poets that most other literary sides have.

Prediction:  This will be a toughly contested fight that might end in a draw.


Daniel Ausema said...

Not looking great for Spain at the moment...

Are you familiar with Unamuno? San Manuel Bueno, Martir was a favorite of mine, and I think you'd appreciate it. And I keep meaning to read Niebla, which sounds good in a metafictional way, but I haven't gotten around to it yet. Unamuno was part of the Generacion de 98.

Larry said...

No, no I'm not, or else it would have been mentioned. Will have to add it to the list, it seems.

And I was laughing after that Swiss goal. Quite amusing, especially since I have a bet going that says Spain won't win the Cup again (I picked Brazil).

Peter Rozovsky said...

Bad call on Spain. They didn't wait for the knockout stage to falter this year.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

Larry said...

Yeah, but I was talking about "literary" sides, not the sports ones!

Myshkin said...

Add Zakes Mda as a fairly well known non-white novelist to the South African side.

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