Around the world in 5 novels


We invite you to join us in some world-hopping on the wings of literary works. Enormous areas will be left unexplored, for it is not the ambition of this post to give anything resembling a comprehensive overview.

If it has ambition at all, it is to present a handful of good reads and to confirm, once again, that people share such a large pool of common experience that we, the readers, have no difficulties immersing ourselves into stories from different cultures and traditions.

Let’s start with the home turf.

While waiting for The Childhood of Jesus to hit the shelves, we recommend re-reading one of JM Coetzee’s earlier novels, Life and Times of Michael K. This tale of a man struggling to build for himself a life with dignity while being tossed by higher powers in a historically unspecified era of war-torn South Africa gets only better with a second reading.

Next stop, Latin America, to another Nobel laureate.

The Dream of the Celt by Mario Vargas Llosa incorporates the elements of a historical novel and a journalistic piece to tell the story of the terror and torture that the native Peruvian population suffered at the hands of European colonists and the story of the struggle of Irish nationalists.

Now, let’s book a passage to India.

We are pretty certain you’ve seen the film, but have you read Q&A by Indian author Vikas Swarup? You may know the work under the title Slumdog Millionaire. Rings a bell now? Of course it does. Not many movies have achieved such world-wide popularity. Well, give the book a chance too. You won’t regret it.

From India, it’s but a short trip to Japan.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Japanese author Haruki Murakami starts off as a detective story built on the structure of dreams, letters, flashbacks, letters, newspaper stories, transcripts of internet chats and wartime reminisces. Don’t expect to have all loose ends tied up, but do expect this novel to exert a strong magical pull.

Next, we take a giant leap around half the globe to land in Europe.

Having in mind the unofficial status of English language as present-day lingua franca, it’s only fitting that at least one quintessentially English novel finds its place in this reading trip around the world, so here it is: The Remains of the Day. There’s only one word to describe it: absolutely delightful (all right, two words). But wait, what’s the author’s name? Kazuo Ishiguro? Truth to be told, at first I thought it must be some mistake, but everything was explained when I opened Wikipedia and learned that Ishiguro’s family moved to London when he was only five.