The OF Blog: World Cup of Fiction Preview: Groups E-H

Thursday, June 12, 2014

World Cup of Fiction Preview: Groups E-H

Although the actual World Cup starts later today, there might be times (depending upon work) where the World Cup of Fiction write-ups (which this time will focus more on comparisons of 1-3 writers/poets per country in the name of fairness and my own limited exposure to certain national literatures) might be behind by a day or two.  Think of it more like reading a newspaper account of the previous day/s' matches, I suppose.  But regardless of this, time for a slightly truncated version of the group previews for the remaining four literary groups:

Group E


La Tri (not to be confused with Mexico's El Tri) may appear to be the minnow of the South American nations in terms of its size, population, and literature, but there are a few 20th century writers who have gained regional, if not global, recognition for their literary talents.  Abdón Ubidia is one writer to watch during Ecuador's literary matches.


Les Bleus are one of the favorites to win the 2014 World Cup of Fiction.  Boasting a line-up of poets, short fiction writers, dramatists, philosophers, and historians that rivals any that other nations could through at them, the French literary side's only real apparent weaknesses is their propensity to sleep with and to argue with each other.


Los Catrachos might not be on the radar of casual international literary fans, but the likes of a Horacio Castellanos Moya cannot be overlooked.  Do not be surprised if the Honduran side notches at least a draw in one of their three literary matches.


Die Schweizer Nati may be overshadowed by their French, German, and Italian neighbors, but Switzerland has produced in its history two world-class storytellers:  the historian Jakob Burckhardt and the children's writer Johann Wyss.  Certain a literary side to take on with caution.

Group F 


La Albicelestes are a traditional South American literary powerhouse, fielding writers and poets such as Jorge Luis Borges, Adolfo Bioy Casares, Manuel Puig, Silvina Ocampo, Roberto Arlt, Angélica Gorodischer, and many, many more.  They may be the slight favorite in this tough literary group, one of the toughest of the tournament.

 Bosnia and Hercegovina 

The Zmajevi boasts a Nobel Prize-winning writer (although this is disputed by Serbia, who is not participating in this tournament), Ivo Andrić, and there are several other writers like Miroslav Krleža who are not far behind in literary quality.  Certainly a fun and exciting literary side to read in recent years.


Whether they are called Team Melli or the Princes of Persia, the Iranian literary side has suffered from the literary oppression of the past 35 years in their country.  Nevertheless, Iran/Persia was a source, if not the chief, for The Thousand and One Nights and its poets, medieval and 20th/21st century alike, are world-class.  Dangerous literary side.


The Super/Green Eagles are quickly becoming a global literary force after the emergence of several writers in recent years.  While most high school students may be familiar with Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart, recently Ben Okri, Chimamanda Adichie, and Okey Ndibe have emerged as the next literary generation to Achebe and Wole Soyinka, a Nobel Prize-winning writer.  Nigeria is yet another literary side to watch from this tough group.

Group G 


Die Nationalmannschaft may be one of the football side's nicknames, but it may be fitting for their literary side to have such a direct moniker.  Goethe.  Schiller.  Rilke.  Mann.  Grass.  These names alone, leaving aside the philosophers (who are quite busy right now in their own World Cup), alone are enough to make the German literary side a threat to win it all, if they can manage to escape this literary Group of Death.


The Black Stars will be decisive underdogs in each of their literary group matches, but they do boast one of the 20th century's most renowned poets, Kofi Awoonor, so if the match were to come down to best modern poetry, the Ghanaians certainly have a shot to achieve at least a literary draw.


The Selecção das Quinas might not be as strong as their football counterparts, but boasting 20th and 21st century writers such as José Saramago and Gonçalo M. Tavares, the Portuguese literary side certainly is strong enough to move on to the knockout stage.

United States 

The Y***s * (as a Southerner, I refuse to have that nickname apply to my native region ;)) are a dominant publishing force over the past century, but is their literature really worthy of such pre-eminence?  Perhaps, but only if one discards most of the nation's first half of existence and focus on the past 150 years and even then, quite a few of the literary giants on the global stage come from only a few scattered sub genres.  The Southerners on the pitch, especially Mark Twain, William Faulkner, Harper Lee, and Flannery O'Connor, perhaps are the best of a deep bunch, what with Faulkner's vaunted dead mule kick and all, but the true danger lies in the perception that the American squad might be "too insular" in order to adapt to changing literary styles and attacks.

Group H 


While Les Fennecs might possess the best literary nickname, there really isn't much Algerian literature that isn't Francophone that has entered global literary awareness.  Counting the Algerian-born Albert Camus certainly raises the profile of the Algerian literary side, but Algeria is a mystery heading into the literary World Cup.


It certainly doesn't bode well for the Diables Rouges that the first thing that occurred to me when thinking of their country and literature was an old Douglas Adams joke from the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series.  However, Jean Ray, particularly Malpertius, is a favorite of mine, so the Belgians do have a shot at advancing, depending on the initial matches.


Sbornaya, simply the National Team, might be an understatement here.  The Russians certainly possess a rich and varied literary tradition, even though there have not yet been quite the number of literary talents after the fall of Communism in 1991 that there was before the October Revolution of 1917.  Still, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Turgenev, Chekhov, and Pasternak make for an exciting and dangerous literary side, possibly enough to ensure Russia's advancement deep into the tournament.

South Korea 

The Taeguk might have to fight like their warrior namesakes if they are going to advance.  South Korea has had one prominent writer, Kyung-sook Shin, the winner of the 2012 Man Asian Literary Prize, emerge in recent years, and while the South Koreans have not been a fully independent nation-state for more than the past 69 years, they are not to be taken lightly here.

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