The OF Blog: World Cup of Fiction: June 17 Matches

Thursday, June 17, 2010

World Cup of Fiction: June 17 Matches

Again, a bit late with this, but onto the literary versions of today's World Cup matches.  Should be a plethora of excellent authors mentioned here and the entire point is to highlight the richness of national literatures (and in cases where I leave a favored author off for whatever reason, for others to comment with those authors and suggestions for both myself and others to consider).  Now onto the match-ups:

Group A

 Mexico - Sports Nickname:  El Tri.  World Cup appearances, 14 (1930, 1950, 1954, 1958, 1962, 1966, 1970, 1978, 1986, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010).  World Cup Championships, 0.

Strengths:  Mexico boasts a very strong literary side.  Starting with their Nobel laureate, Octavio Paz, the Mexicans can trot out Carlos Fuentes and Juan Rulfo, two of the leading lions of El Boom, as well as members of the Crack Manifesto group of the 1990s, including Jorge Volpí and Ignacio Padilla.  Then there is the formidable Elena Poniatowka, who is equally adept with both non-fiction and fiction alike.  Xavier Velasco is a relatively new voice who may make some waves once he is available in translation.  David Toscana is another Mexican writer who is now starting to get some of his works translated into English and perhaps other languages as well.  Mexican literature ranges from the realist to speculative without the overly rigid divisions that plague Anglo-American literature.  And who could forget Julia Alvarez and Laura Esquivel?

Weaknesses:  Despite several solid to great authors in a variety of genres, Mexico's best storytellers, with the exception of Fuentes, Rulfo, and Paz are not very familiar to Anglo audiences.  This is not really a weakness, but rather a barrier to Mexico rising to be considered one of the best literary sides in the world.

France - Sports Nickname: Les Bleus.  World Cup appearances, 13 (1930, 1934, 1938, 1954, 1958, 1966, 1978, 1982, 1986, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010).  World Cup Championships, 1 (1998).

Strengths:  France boasts enough Nobel Prize winners to field a side composed solely of them.  Sartre, Gide, Beckett (he did become a French citizen, I think; he certainly wrote several of his most famous works in French), latter-day Kundera, Anatole France, and of course, Camus.  And then there are the older writers, from the medieval poet Chrétien de Troyes to Moliére (nearly Shakespeare's equal at dramas) to Balzac, Collette, Hugo, Flaubert...I could just keep listening a few dozen more, so let's just say that France has an abundance of talent, okay?

Weaknesses:  Alexandre Dumas.

Prediction:  Brilliant form on both sides, with lots of back and forth action, but the overwhelming crush of the French existentialist counter-attack will provide the decisive goal.

Group B

Argentina - Sports Nickname:  La Albiceleste.  World Cup appearances, 15 (1930, 1934, 1958, 1962, 1966, 1974, 1978, 1982, 1986, 1990, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010).  World Cup Championships, 2 (1978, 1986).

Strengths:  Where to begin?  The most obvious name would be Jorge Luis Borges and his labyrinthine stories certainly are a major influence on writers of the past 50 years.  Then there is José Hernández, who composed one of the last great epic poems, Martín Fierro.  And then there are the generations of 1880 and 1937.  And Adolfo Bioy Casares, Leopoldo Lugones, Manuel Puig, Oliverio Girondo, Macedonio Fernández, Roberto Arlt, Angélica Gorodischer, and the glorious talents of Julio Cortázar.

Weaknesses:  El críado de los porteños.  What part of Argentine life is it not a weakness?

South Korea - Sports Nickname:  Taeguk Warriors.  World Cup appearances, 8 (1954, 1986, 1990, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010).  World Cup Championships, 0.

Strengths:  South Korea has a long tradition of poetry composed to music, several of these compositions have survived to the present day.

Weaknesses:  There is no strong Korean tradition of writing prose and until very recently, very few Korean works were available in other languages, so South Korea's literature is virtually unknown in the West.

Prediction:  Borges weaves a bifurcating passing path that entraps the Korean side, enabling the Argentines to win with ease.

Nigeria - Sports Nickname:  The Eagles.  World Cup appearances, 4 (1994, 1998, 2002, 2010).  World Cup Championships, 0.

Strengths: Despite being a young nation rife with political, ethnic, and social divisions, Nigeria has produced several excellent writers over the past half-century. Chinua Achebe, Ben Okri, Helen Oyeyemi and the child of Nigerian immigrants, Nnedi Okorafor, are some of the great authors that are Nigerian or who are influenced strongly by Nigerian traditions.  There are several others with whom I am unfamiliar, but I can comfortably say that these four are among the best that I've read in recent years.

Weaknesses:  The usual problem with Third World nations - lack of international exposure commiserate with the level of talent being produced.

Greece - Sports Nickname:  To Piratiko.  World Cup appearances, 2 (1994, 2010).  World Cup Championships, 0.

Strengths:  Back in the day, when all schoolchildren walked barefoot, uphill both ways, in the snow carrying the firewood to school, the Greeks were perhaps the most widely-read of authors there.  Euripides, Aristotle, Aristophanes, Thucydides, Xenophon, Meander, Hesiod, and the beat goes on.  All classics, all used to be read in the original Attic Greek even into the early 20th century in the best of public schools.

Weaknesses:  Modern Greek literature is a pale shadow to its ancient forebears and is largely invisible to Anglo-American audiences.

Prediction:  The Nigerians try to wear out the ancient Greek side, but after a disqualification for age-related taunting, the Greeks score the deciding goal.


tim said...

I don't know about your predictions about Greece and Nigeria. It was my understanding, and definitely how I read it, that Achebe's Things Fall Apart is both a colonial critique and a systematic deconstruction of the literary tradition bequeathed by the Greeks on Western society. If one man and one book can do that, than I don't think all the Greeks combined can stand in Nigeria's way. Well, maybe Kazantzakis can slip in a winning shot.

Larry said...

I know, but as I was writing this, a Nigerian player was sent off in the real game and I thought I'd work that into this write-up as a way of making light of that situation. After all, the Greeks can only score at any sort of World Cup (literary, sports) if the opponent is a man down :P

Mihai (Dark Wolf) said...

Nikos Kazantzakis proved to have an important contribution in the game and despite the opposition of Uzodinma Iweala scored the winning goal :D

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