The OF Blog: World Cup of Fiction: June 15 Matches

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

World Cup of Fiction: June 15 Matches

Here's the first of the daily write-ups.  For some of these, I had to use Wikipedia and other online sources to find enough authors of merit to mention.  It should be obvious which two countries have the most writers with whom I am familiar.  

There are three matches scheduled for Tuesday, June 15th.  First up is the final pairing from Group F, New Zealand versus Slovakia, followed by the two Group G matches, Brazil versus North Korea and Côte d'Ivoire versus Portugal.  Time for an analysis of the literary match-ups:

Group F

New Zealand - Sports nickname:  All Whites (soccer/football).  Number of World Cup appearances, 2 (1982, 2010).  Number of World Cup Championships, 0.

Strengths:  New Zealand is a young nation, both in terms of its sports history and its literary heritage.  However, New Zealand does possess a rich history of Maori oral traditions, which if ever translated and put on the written page may prove to be an unknown factor that could surprise unwary foes and readers.  Furthermore, several writers have been influenced by New Zealand and have written tales in New Zealand or based on New Zealand, such as works by Katherine Mansfield and Samuel Butler, whose Erewhon is perhaps the most famous New Zealand-based novel that I have read.

Weaknesses:  As a young and untested literary group, New Zealand has had to rely more upon immigrant or foreign authors mentioning their land than do older, richer literary nations.  There is really not a distinct New Zealand literary scene and the literature, outside of its sometimes rich settings, really has not stood out.  Furthermore, the Kiwis would appear to be matched up poorly with nations that have a more integrated multicultural literary attack.

Slovakia - Sports nickname:  Bojovni Jondovc.  Number of World Cup appearances, 1 (2010). Number of World Cup Championships, 0.

Strengths:  Although Slovakia has only been an independent nation since 1993, there is a rich tradition of Slokavian literature, including several poets and dramatists, dating back to the medieval period.  More recently, Milan Rufus was considered to be a perennial candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature until his death in 2009.  Slovak authors, although not as well-known as their Czech brethren, have written several lauded works in a wide range of genres and literary styles.

Weaknesses:  After 40 years of Communist rule and the paucity of translations into English, Slovak literature is still mostly an unknown quantity in the Anglophone countries.  However, in parts of Central and Eastern Europe, Slovak writers have enjoyed some recognition, albeit of a diminished sort when compared to their larger Czech and Hungarian neighbors.

Prediction:  Despite the lack of world-class literary figures on either side, the Slovaks ought to pull this one out due to their veteran poets and dramatists.  New Zealand is too young of a literary side be able to counterattack efficiently and their literary defense is equally suspect.

Group G

Brazil - Sports nickname:  A Seleção.  Number of World Cup appearances, 19 (1930, 1934, 1938, 1950, 1954, 1958, 1962, 1966, 1970, 1974, 1978, 1982, 1986, 1990, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010).  Number of World Cup championships, 5 (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002).

Strengths:  Brazil is a lively literary side, led by its most renowned author, Jorge Amado, who has received several accolades and has been translated into several languages.  Independent since the 1820s, Brazil has had the time to develop a variety of literary styles. 19th century Realist writer Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis is another Brazilian author whose works may provide a devastating complement to Amado's more imaginative works.

Weaknesses:  Brazilian authors, especially those writing in speculative fiction, have not yet managed to replicate the unique artistry for which their soccer/football side is renowned.  This is not to say that they are not a dangerous squad, for there are several young and promising authors that are emerging in Brazil that may soon be able to challenge the powerful Argentine literary community for control of the South American literary scene.  Brazil is a fast-developing country and they may provide problems for the other members of Group G.

North Korea - Sports nickname:  Cheollima.  Number of World Cup appearances:  2 (1966, 2010).  Number of World Cup Championships, 0.

Strengths:  As one of the few remaining hardline Communist states with mostly closed borders, most of the literature that leaks out from North Korea seems to be propaganda pieces praising the wisdom and strength of leader Kim Il Jung.  A steady diet of this can be devastating.  

Weaknesses:  Outside of North Korea, few people consider Kim Il Jung to be a talented leader, much less a literary icon.  Very few works have been produced in North Korea since the 1948 partition of the Korean peninsula.

Prediction:  Despite a few early struggles dealing with the propaganda blasts that threaten to overwhelm even the vuvuzelas, the Brazilian side will quickly steady themselves and score multiple literary goals based on talent, variety of literature, and the lack of propagandistic drivel.

Côte d'Ivoire - Sports nickname: Lés Elephants.  Number of World Cup appearances, 2 (2006, 2010).  World Cup Championships, 0.

Strengths:  There is still the remnants of a strong oral tradition among the several ethnics groups within the country.

Weaknesses:  The combination of a young country with a mostly illiterate population has not produced any significant literary output that has spread beyond West Africa.  May be one of the weakest literary sides in the entire World Cup.

Portugal - Sports nickname:  Selecção das QuinasNumber of World Cup appearances, 5 (1966, 1986, 2002, 2006, 2010).  World Cup Championships, 0.

Strengths:  Portugal has produced some of the finest poets in Europe over the past five centuries.  Luís de Camões with his Os Lusíadas is perhaps one of the few Renaissance/Early Modern poets who not only became his country's national literary figure, but who also deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Shakespeare and Moliére as best literary figures of the Early Modern era.  In addition, in the 20th century, Portugal produced another outstanding poet in the enigmatic Fernando de Pessoa, who wrote under so many pseudonyms that the other Portuguese literary great of the 20th century, José Saramago, had one of those pseudonyms, Ricardo de Reis, outlive Pessoa by a year.  Saramago also was the 1998 Nobel Prize in Literature laureate.

Weaknesses:  Camões has faded somewhat in the past two centuries, especially in the Anglophone countries, where he used to be one of the few foreign authors who received new translations every generation until the 19th century.  Saramago has aged and while there are some interesting young spec fic writers emerging (I am currently reading some of David Soares' works, which combine Portuguese history with speculative elements and am enjoying it greatly), Portugal's literary attack may be a bit long in the tooth to advance far in the knockout stages.

Prediction:  This may be one of the most lopsided matches in the entire literary reimagining of the 2010 World Cup.  Portugal pretty much can name the number of literary goals it will score here.  No challenge at all for the Portuguese until they face their linguistic brethren, the Brazilians.


Cheryl said...

May I suggest that you seek out the work of New Zealand author, Elizabeth Knox?

Larry Nolen said...

Thanks for the suggestion. I'll look into it shortly, Cheryl, as I know there will be certain...ummm...gaps in my reading that will be quite obvious the more of these that I write. Suggestions like yours will be greatly welcomed.

marco said...

Janet Frame. The Carpathians in particular is a marvelous fant...magical realist metafictional novel.

marco said...

Oh, and the Côte d'Ivoire can boast a formidable striker in Ahmadou Kourouma, author of Les Soleils des indépendances, En attendant le vote des bêtes sauvages and Allah n'est pas obligé.

Eddie C said...

Second Elizabeth Knox - Vinter's Luck in particular is great, although there was a travesty of a movie made from it...

and suck it! Our football players can equal Slovakia's even if our authors can't :P.

(I'm also rather amazed at the number of kiwis or people who know about nz literature popping out of the woodwork here)

Larry Nolen said...

Thanks for mentioning those authors Marco, since I really didn't find anything after a cursory search. Do feel bad when there's little to nothing in the way of good authors to point out in these planned threads.


Placed an order on that book this morning, shipped an hour ago. And yeah, I'm surprised by the authors mentioned. Just shows how much more I have to learn about various nations' literary scenes.

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