Sunday, February 6, 2011

The World Explained by a Couple of Squished Oranges

Owl’s family is full of doctors, engineers and business people. Owl spends family reunions pretending she has grand plans for a financially solvent future. The only exception is Owl’s aunt who went off and got a master’s degree in Hindi literature.

The last time Owl saw her aunt, Owl had a grand epiphany. Compadre! Ally! Owl and her aunt would spend all future reunions blissfully discussing literature and cultivating their souls.

Owl’s aunt was probably relieved that Owl had grown out of the standard Aunt greeting—‘Did you bring me a present?’ ‘Is it good to eat?’—because she poured out some chai and settled in for some serious book chat. Only—

Owl had never heard of any of the writers her aunt mentioned.

In fact, Owl never thought about the literary landscape of India. She didn’t know it had one. She’d heard stories about how few opportunities there were outside of doctoring, engineering, and civil servanting. She imagined Indians who wanted to write shut that up in some closet of their soul and soldiered on through life as best they could.

Owl realized her conception of Indian literature is as follows:

[1000 A.D.] Gods and sages with mystical powers roam the earth. When they die their bodies turn into the texts of the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Upshinads, the Vedas, and um, other stuff?
[1913] Tagore wins the Nobel Prize for his poetry. Tagore is probably another god who was a bit late to the party. 
[1990s] A breed of English writing Indian authors such as Kiran Desai, Andruhati Roy, Vikram Seth and Rohinton Mistry hit the bestseller lists. Children of the gods? Possibly.

Owl was embarrassed. This is her understanding of the literary world.

America—The literary bread bowl.
Britain—The mother land.
Australia—mini Britain minus the classics plus some aborigine folktales
Canada—L.M. Montgomery, Alice Munro
Spain/Latin America—What Owl had to read in Spanish class
Greece—a country that hasn’t produced any writers since togas became passé
Italy—see Greece + Italo Calvino. Owl frequently mixes up Greece and Italy.
Russia—Eleven really depressed writers who all look up to Papa Pushkin
France—FREE LOVE, and um, Montaigne
Germany—Hesse & Mann, Nietzsche doesn’t count since he was crazy
Japan—Manga, Haruki Murakami, Tale of Genji, haiku, pillow books
China—Pearl Buck, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, assorted philosophers, books on why Mao sucks
India—see previous explanation
Middle East—Arabian Nights, cryptic poets
Scandinavia—sagas nobody reads, disturbing psychological thrillers everyone reads, cute books about moomin trolls
Korea—Bad manga
South Africa—J.M. Coetzee
Nigeria—Chinua Achebe

Everywhere else: NON-EXISTENT

The book world according to Owl
Originally Owl wanted to make a cartogram so that each country would be proportionally to the number of authors Owl had read or heard of, but when Owl plugged her data into the cartogram software, America and Britain turned into two massive blobs and all other countries disappeared. The map liked like two squished oranges.

The book world as explained by oranges
Owl would like to imagine this is solely because Owl speaks English and a smattering of Spanish. But when Owl was in high school a teacher told her 90% of the books published in the Democratic Republic of Congo are written by Western authors. Owl had a spastic attack. If someone grows up in DR Congo, either they’re reading books where DR Congo is never mentioned or it’s a place filled with heathens and barbarians.This must have an excellent impact on the psyche.

Owl remembers reading several British classics as a child. African and Eastern countries were never mentioned, or if they were, they were strange and backwards places full of idols. (Latin America never made it in unless an author wanted one of their characters to get rich quickly). Since many of Owl’s relatives pray to said idols, she found these descriptions upsetting and decided British authors were a very ill mannered breed. Owl's psyche had several tantrums.

What Owl found most troubling however, was that Asian and African countries never appeared in her history books at school. (Owl learned about Latin America because of Spanish class.) Owl knew the Asian ones had histories at least because her parents came from them and would occasionally tell her stories about emperors but somehow these emperors never made it into her textbooks. China was a couple chapters on communism. India’s Gupta empire was reduced to one page while the Dark Age of Europe was about half the book. It was even called the Dark Age, the period where Nothing Happened and Owl still had to learn about it for several semesters.

As for Africa, well, Owl has a very hazy notion that Africa was filled with tribes and then decimated by imperialism and slavery. If this was totally inaccurate she would not be surprised.

Owl asked her teachers about this omission. Her teachers gave her confused looks. Some of them said it was a tragedy. Others cited the Palmer (A History of the Modern World, the standard text for AP European History) argument, these countries had no influence on the shaping of the modern world and therefore they have been left out of the curriculum.

Owl understands that one can only pack so much information into a curriculum. It is not possible to teach or to read about every single culture that has walked across the face of the planet, but when it comes to the population cartogram, China and India are the two squished oranges on the face of the map. 

Legit Cartogram*
Given the number of times these countries are appearing in the news, their overwhelming numbers in terms of population and their exploding economies, Owl is a little frightened when she realizes that her education—the education most of her peers had—did not prepare her to deal with a non-Western-centric world. What Owl finds particularly disturbing is despite the fact India and China had civilizations that endured for thousands of years she, her classmates and her teachers, accepted that yes, these two countries were not relevant to the modern world.

90% of the books Democratic Republic of Congo publishes maybe from Western authors, but that does not mean Congolese writing does not exist, or that other countries do not have their own literary cultures. Owl went to a Korean bookstore the other day. On the bestseller table she found translations of The Kite Runner, Harry Potter, and a couple dozen other bestsellers that were originally written in English. But the rest of the bookstore was filled with Korean authors. Owl has never read a Korean author. Owl can’t name a single Korean author. 

One of the easiest ways to understand a culture is to delve into its literature. For example, the Bhagvad Gita (Owl recommends Stephan Mitchell’s translation) may have been written thousands of years ago, but for many Indians it still serves as a moral foundation that informs everything from personal to business ethics.

Owl is challenging herself to read books from as many different countries as possible. Owl would love your recommendations. Bonus points if the work is a translation.

Note: Owl is aware that she's mixed up all other countries in a most deplorable fashion, but she begs you to forgive her. She's read at least two or three times as many American books (she isn't even counting British ones here) than books from all other countries in the world combined.

*Legit cartogram source.


  1. This was excellent, and I've often found myself having similar thoughts. I think I've read primarily Western authors, because, well, I tend to read just whatever is on the shelf in front of me. I read pulp (I would like to say it's because I'm intimidated by the literary giants, or make up some bullshit about how modern pulp is the only thing that's truly indicative of modern culture or something, but the truth is I read to relax, and scifi pulp is fun ;3). Most of the pulp I've come into contact with is by Western authors. Then again, I don't pay much attention to the writers of my fixes unless they're really, really good and I want more from them...and I can't say I've read many scifi translations. Um...the only one that comes immediately to mind is Capek (the guy who invented the word "robot")...I'm sure there's more, but I have a terrible memory for names.
    That said, I really think that history lessons are too Western-centric (and, in a lot of cases, waaaay too US-centric). Do you think it's a case of history being written by victors/whoever's perceived to be the current economic powers? I'm wondering if this country-centric view is unique to the US...I really suspect it's not. That said, I would have *loved* to have learned more about Oriental or African or what have you history in high school. Instead, we spent like three months studying World War II and pretty much glossed over everything else. For god's sake, in middle school we spent more time on Egyptian and Sumerian history than we did on the history of contemporary countries.
    This was a very good post, and quite thought-provoking, thank you!

  2. Oh Owl, doesn't cultural imperialism suck?! What you said about Chinese and Indian history.... let me tell you a story. Well, Chinese history I knew about, because: Grad School. But Indian history! I knew it had to have one. It was one of those glorious Other Great Birthplaces of Civilization that wasn't the Fertile Crescent. But as an adult--in my thirties--I finally came to learn just how many empires India had had, and how much complicated interacting there had been. I loved it when I got to learning about Southeast Asian history, and the political heavyweights were China and India, and the wars of empires and the spheres of influence had nothing at all to do with Europe--AT ALL for hundreds of years.

    I guess with regard to literature, one tricky part of cultural imperialism is that we know of literature through European terms, like "novel." Japan had a booming urban culture, complete with bookstores and paperbacks (by which I mean, cheap literary works printed on paper), before it opened up itself to the outside world in the 1850s. But those paperback stories--ghost stories and revenge tales and thrillers--aren't called "novels." Officially, the Japanese didn't start writing "novels" until post-1850. And I imagine similar things can be said for other non-European cultures.

    Still, however shameful one's blinkered previous state of knowledge is, it's wonderful when the world starts opening up, and suddenly there are exciting and complicated histories to learn about--or amazing works of literature to read in translation. Or if you go crazy, you end up wanting to learn the original language.

  3. I borrowed a pretty good Korean book from Erica. It's called I Have the Right to Destroy Myself, and it's about a man who is hired to arrange suicides.

    If you're interested in other cultures and you're having trouble finding translated books, maybe you could try movies. A lot of good movies are coming out of countries like India and Korea nowadays. And there are a lot of classic films you could find from France, Italy, the old Soviet Union, Sweden, and all those other countries that you haven't read as many books from.

    The oranges chart is adorable.

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  5. Valerie/Aquarose here!

    This reminds me of that brilliant plan we had to learn about different countries that aren't covered in the Western curriculum. Easier said than done. :) But yeah, I'm totally with you on this- you've read more books from other countries than I have even! What with the handful of German and Russian books and the manga. I pretty much stick with America and Britain, and only lately am I being ambitious and reading Spanish authors (in Spanish). At first I stuck with Spanish books that were translations of English books (such as Harry Potter and And Then There Were None) but it seemed like cheating so in the last few months I've read maybe five or so books that were originally written in Spanish. The sad thing is I can't really recommend any of them because none of them were all that great. Not even Isabel Allende's young adult series that starts with La Ciudad de las Bestias- I was not terribly impressed by it. Granted most of them were children's books or young adult books because I'm starting out slow.

    But I think you're right, I do think it's a shame that in the American education system we are taught a great deal about the US and Europe but leave out much of the rest of the world in the process. Even in my World History class in college, we were supposed to learn about India, China, etc, as well, and we did, but it just didn't seem as in-depth as what I knew about the US and Europe. I think I may read the Bhagvad Gita, I had heard of it and now you have sparked my interest in reading it!

  6. I second Alex's recommendation for I Have the Right to Destroy Myself. I think I may have actually mentioned that book to you before... I forget.

    There are lots of German books I can suggest, if you'd be interested. If you're looking for something to read right now, find a copy of Robin Buss' unabridged translation of The Count of Monte Cristo--there are no words to describe how wonderful it is.

    It might also be helpful if you tried some of these book recommendation services to see if you can hunt down some literature in translation.

  7. Given the number of times these countries are appearing in the news, their overwhelming numbers in terms of population and their exploding economies, Owl is a little frightened when she realizes that her education—the education most of her peers had—did not prepare her to deal with a non-Western-centric world. What Owl finds particularly disturbing is despite the fact India and China had civilizations that endured for thousands of years she, her classmates and her teachers, accepted that yes, these two countries were not relevant to the modern world.

    Yes. YES. Also the comment on what it does to the psyche to have everything you read be by authors from elsewhere, all of whom ignore your existence. And that can happen in different ways: I've read comments from black writers about what it was like reading science fiction 20 years ago and realizing there were no people of color in "the future."

    I will go digging. I have a suggested reading list filed somewhere that is much like what you're seeking. It is filed, however, and *ahem* I have to admit I haven't read many of them. The only one I can think of off the top of my head is "I, Rigoberta Menchu: An Indian Woman in Guatemala" and that's more (political) memoir than "literature." Political simply because it told what was being done to native tribes there, what their lives were like.

  8. Loved this post. I need to read more in general these days, but I'm going to try to make that commitment too. Things I've read lately from other countries:

    1000 Splendid Suns
    Will the Boat Sink the Water? (in translation)
    The Latehomecomers (not sure if this counts as from another country)
    Tales from Hulan River by Xiao Hong
    Chronicle of a Blood Merchant by Yu Hua

    also recommend:
    anything written by Jung Chang
    anything written by Lu Xun (according to my swat professor, the father of modern Chinese literature)
    short stories/novellas by Mao Dun

    I've HEARD that Lust, Caution by Eileen Chang is amazing; same with To Live by Yu Hua

    Looking forward to following the comments on this thread, too...

  9. I don't really have much coherent to throw at this, I admit... just a bunch of links to demonstrate my point of view.

    Funnily enough, this is a pretty good representation of my view of world geography:

    And as for US history, even taught in school... <-- about lack of mainstream portrayal, and when FOR ONCE somebody puts into a show someone *just like you*... topic is disability, not international culture per se, but Avatar: The Last Airbender is so good at handling both, *and* telling a good story. <-- Literature is full of dead white Europeans of a couple of centuries ago, steampunk is full of fictional white Europeans from a fictional couple of centuries ago... this is for steampunk *everywhere else in the world*. <-- in particular, steampunk set in Southeast Asia.

  10. @Aquarose

    Man, we need to get back on that. We DO. Hmmm…how about, wanna do a book a month or something? We could read a book together. That might be more feasible than the full blown plan.

    I’m so impressed that you’re reading books in SPANISH. Wow. I am not that motivated. My Spanish is rusty like a rusted spoon. Which books did you read? Actually, where did you get them? Do you buy them online?

    Also, that’s a crying shame cause from what I remember Spanish lit blew the top off of my head. And it did this even though I could barely string together a few words in Spanish and labored for hours to understand each story and then stressed out because I had piles of other homework.

    Maybe because we read the grand old classics, but my God, my God the writing. To die for. And the poetry, why do we even try in English? In college after weeks of reading this horrible poet from the ‘70s, my professor handed out Spanish poets Horrible!Poet had been influenced by. The difference between a match and daylight. This is what the poet was attempting, this is everything poetry should be. I kiss my fingers. I weep. And I can’t bloody stand poetry.

    Recommend Pablo Neruda. Definitely. And Jose Marti is such a dear. Anyway, all of the stuff I read was for AP Spanish Literature. Ugh. All of my textbooks are in a different state, otherwise I’d get you the names but here’s a syllabus link I found:

    It’s brilliant stuff. Seriously worth buying a discount textbook for just so you can have the collection of stories. And they define the words too!

    Carlos Fuentes’s Aura is yummy and easy. Marquez has a bunch of short stories that are doable (they were challenging for me, but my classmates had no problem with them and I’m sure you won’t either). Unamuno’s stories freaked me out in the best way possible. I found this set of plays by Lope de Vega who is totally a classic Spanish playwright—he wrote 1,800 plays in the 1500s. You can find one here:

    I picked up the English translation over the Chrismas hols, and then freakin’ lost it because the translation was so bloody bad, but the Spanish seems really doable, or it least it was when I kept the English translation by my side to cross reference.

    I feel like even if you’ve read all of those authors, it’s worth exploring their other works instead of settling for meh YA.

    You’re so lucky that you took a World History class. I envy you that. What did you learn about w/regard to China and India? I tried reading some Chinese history textbooks on my own and one thing that quickly struck me was how difficult it is to learn. American history and European history are somewhat familiar so I feel pretty grounded. Even if I don’t know much about European history, there are enough events that are familiar that I can quickly acclimate. However, with Chinese history everything was new. I didn’t expect that—after all should I just be able to read a book and understand everything?—but without any context whatsoever it is difficult. There’s nothing to grab onto.

  11. @asakiyume
    What terrifies me the most about it is 95% of the time I’m not even aware that it exists. I take my POV for granted, I theorize on it and I act on my theorizing. I imagine I’m not the only one. And then I get impressed that the world runs as well as it does. When I was interning in Indonesia, the factory owners were complaining about the standards their American customers demanded the factories have in order to be ‘humane’ and there would be regular inspections. The problem wasn’t having standards, it is that the standards didn’t take into account Indonesia and an Indonesian lifestyle. Like one requirement was the bathrooms must be adequately stocked with toilet paper. Toilet paper isn’t standard in Indonesia (unless you’re upper class). Half the time you won’t find toilet paper in the airport.

    I’m so envious that you learned Chinese history! (What did you study in Grand school?) How did you pick up Indian history? Any book recommendations for general overviews? I’m constantly amazed by how vast and how huge these empires were, how little they had to do with Europe and how much they did, and how none of it is mentioned.. Ottoman empire. Always that…empire that the Pope had issues with. Never really learned much about what the Ottoman empire did except that it was fabulous.

    Sometimes it’s galling. I read an article the other day about how meditation is a relatively new field and I winced. I mean yes, new to America, and new in terms of Western scientists taking it seriously enough to run studies on, but still….It’s like in the Little Prince. Nobody would listen to the Turkish scientist until he put on a suit.

    It’s also interesting what gets publicized. Like there was this guy who tromped through Saudi Arabia and wrote about it and whatever he found and really came down harsh on English civilization, but I just stumbled upon him by chance at the library. Probably he’s coming back into fashion because of the Middle East, but in school all I heard about was T.E. Lawrence, and even then, not much.

    The literature part *is* tricky. I used to be a huge fan of Judge Dee novels which where these Chinese murder mysteries. Judge Dee was a real person and the mysteries were real as well, but the translator completely rearranged the story so that they would suit Western tastes. They were ‘Whodunnits’ instead of folktales that delivered some parable about justice. And I’m not sure I would have read through parables about justice. For better or for worse I’ve been brought up with a Western sense of story, plot, character development, and it makes it difficult to enjoy anything that’s radically different.

    And very true, it is wonderful. I remember when I was little my mother couldn’t find any Chinese books at the library and now there’s a huge section, more than she can read! And there are all sorts of new and wonderful translations. I admit I get frustrated with them though. If the translation is good, then the original must be better! And then I start dreaming about being a polyglot. Did you learn original languages in grad school?

    Thanks for the rec and the compliment. :)
    Funnily enough most of the stuff I watch tends to be
    (a) Bollywood movies
    (b) Japanese anime
    (c) Korean dramas
    I know more about k-dramas Bollywood movies than American TV shows. But I also feel like that gives me a really distorted world view.
    Life is a musical! There are magical ponies! Boy bands run around singing on the streets! YES!
    Any film recs for the other countries? Keep in mind that I have the scare tolerance of a five year old. Snakes in a Plane gave me a complex.

    WANT WANT WANT! I saw the Monte Cristo rec and ever since then I've been dying to get my hands on a copy because Cristo was rockin' in the translation I read so a great translation? Super rockin'! To die for!

  12. @Miss Felis

    Makes sense. Besides the obvious language selection bias, it’s just so much easier to come by Western books. And god I love pulp. (Although maybe I should have rephrased ‘Latin American pulp.’ All the pulp I’ve read is Western. Unless we count manga. And then ay yi yi.) Thanks for the Capek rec. I didn’t know that about the word robot, that’s awesome!

    I think part of the US-centric classes is practical, you learn about the history of your own country. My cousin didn’t learn about Hitler until she was fourteen, and another one of my cousins who moved here a couple years ago was looking for a good comprehensive history on America.

    But that said, I think you hit the nail on the head, the Western-centric viewpoint has to do with economic powers (but wait, why didn’t we learn about Japan then?)

    “I've read comments from black writers about what it was like reading science fiction 20 years ago and realizing there were no people of color in "the future."”

    My god, yes. Or even, when you read fantasy somehow home base is always somewhere that resembles the Dark Ages in England, and then the foreign territories or the villains are from the hot dry deserts…I was talking to someone who mentioned how Lord of the Rings is like that. The villains are swarthy southerners. You get this blueprint in your head—dark skin, dark hair means bad. I remember wishing I had blonde hair because black was a ‘bad’ color. Not something I was ever bitter or upset about, but just how deeply engrained that color coding is.

    Thanks! I want to read Rigoberta Menchu. I remember that—again, a cultural difference—there was this huge outcry over her Nobel because some of the stories she wrote about happened to other people. Culturally she said she was writing from the collective memory of the community which counted as her memoir, but the argument was she plagiarized? At least that’s what I remembered.

    How was Splendid Suns? Kite Runner scarred me, there wasn’t a single moment of happiness, but it was a page turner despite that. Thanks for the recs!

    So a few weeks after I got the idea of making a map I saw that xkcd comic and was all like ‘noes! Copier! How did he do that?’ I spent weeks trying to figure out how to make graphics because originally I wanted to label the countries directly and I got bigger ideas, I wanted a cartogram to really drive in the point and spent lots of time reading up cartogram softwares.

    “Literature is full of dead white Europeans of a couple of centuries ago, steampunk is full of fictional white Europeans from a fictional couple of centuries ago... this is for steampunk *everywhere else in the world*.”

    Yeah. YEAH. Alright. Checking out that link.

  13. This is a fantastic post. Do you know, I don't have a CLUE who the Zimbabwean authors are? Not the white ones. I'm going to look now.


    ps oh god, here beginneth mine eternal wrangle with the various logging in options on blogspot. I *never* get it right!

  14. Owl--sadly, the only language I've learned to read stuff in is Japanese. But that's been worth it, even if it's still something of a struggle. In grad school, I was studying classical Japanese literature, but to know *that*, you have to know about the history of Chinese literature, and to know that, you have to know Chinese history. Plus, China. Massive huge important center of civilization for millennia. I mean, they had a civil service--a bureaucracy--before the birth of Christ. Now, I'm not sure that's a good thing... but wow, you know?

    The Indian and Southeast Asian history I only know from encyclopedias. But I want to learn it more in depth.

    And sadly SO TRUE about the guy in The Little Prince.

  15. @Camilla
    Let me know what you find! I asked my dad about Indian authors actually and he pretty much went...?!? My cousins didn't know much either, it was like you had to be a lit major to hear about the writers or you never read them.
    I think blogger is cranky. Or doesn't like bloggers socializing with each other?

    omg you can read Japanese, omg you can read Japanese. How long did it take you to learn? What lead you to select Japanese? And you got all this other delicious knowledge rolled in with the Japanese. awesome. you're kind of selling me on grad school.

    and go you from picking it up from encyclopedias. actually...hehe, maybe wiki's not a bad place for me to start...

  16. Splendid Suns was bittersweet, but ultimately uplifting..I don't remember Kiterunner too well, but I definitely recommend splendid suns and it shouldn't be too scarring.

    Also, I didn't think Ciudad de las Bestias was anything special so I didn't continue with the series, but everything else I've read by Allende was absolutely magical - whether i read it in english or in spanish. I really like her memoirs, too, like The Sum of Our Days (!!!!! I think i read it in like an evening) and Paula.

  17. Owl, for me this post has been quite interesting, since I'm not from the U.S. but from Colombia in South America, and most of the books I read in school were Spanish (translations of others or originals), but after grad school I got into books in English, since there is not much Science fiction in Spanish, and the translations are really, and I mean seriously, BAD. (They're made in either Mexico or Spain, and believe it or not for us Colombians their use of the language SUCKS). As to the western-centric view of the world that's something we also get here, but from an entirely different POV, from what in international relations is called the periphery, I have to admit that I know more about European history than I do about South American history, with the exception of Colombian history obviously.

    As to what you have mentioned about the difficulty in understanding a story written someplace else, you don't have to go too far; when reading the Harry Potter series I failed to grasp one fact that for people living in the northern hemisphere is very obvious, at the start of each book Harry is at his uncle's house in the summer, and he's out in the park or the garden "AT NIGHT" (oh wait, in London at 7p.m during the summer it's not night...), but I didn't grasp that fact until I was reading book 7 and I happened to be in London at the time, it was one of those incongruities that come from reading about seasonal countries from a non-seasonal one, even though our cultures are similar enough.

    As to recommendations in books from other cultures I would highly recommend you look up a Japanese Kabuki play called Chūshingura; or Yukio Mishima's Confessions of a Mask; and if you can deal with a little craziness in a different language try the short stories by Julio Cortazar in Spanish (try to stay away from the translations, no matter how good they are they'll never get the feeling of Cortazar's language down right). As for Isabel Allende you definitely have to read La Casa de los Espíritus, that's basically the story of her childhood at her grand parent's house, the Chilean landowner class, and that is definitely her best book so far.

  18. @Kate
    Uplifting is good. I will read uplifting. I always wanted to read Paula, especially after getting to see her talk. (Wasn't that awesome?)

    Glad you found this interesting. Your perspective is fascinating, especially since you’re bilingual. What are the popular books in Columbia? I’d never realized that translations of English books would be bad—the really popular foreign works here tend to be well translated. Or, at least read as well translated even though they may have nothing to do with the original work. Does anyone read them then?

    And what did it feel like to be getting a Western-centric POV from the periphery (not sure how that’s phrased, never studied IR)? Did you ever worry about gaps? Did you prefer learning one history to another? What about access to works from other parts of the world besides the West? Were there Spanish translations of those?

    I never ever thought about something as simple as geographical location influencing reading but it’s so true (Goes to show, things you never think about!). In the few Aussie books it always threw me off when the writers described Christmas in hot weather. The weird thing is even though my family comes from Asia and I’ve visited them and I’ve never been to England, England feels so familiar to me because I’ve read so many books about it.

    Thanks for the recommendations. I think I had to read one Cortazar story for class and always meant to come back to him—and so many others. They were so good and now they are all blending together! Ugh, how emabarrassing.

    I (shamefully) admit to devouring Allende in…English. And feeling that she’s a beautiful writer and that the English is like slamming a glass plate over a butterfly. And still reading the English. It’s no excuse but I go so slowly and painfully in Spanish half the time I get frustrated.

    Okay. You’ve inspired me. I’m busting out my dictionary and going to read in Spanish!

  19. I think my cartogram would be way worse than yours. But I'm trying to amend that with my asian lit independent study! even though I'm ignoring many many other countries! sigh. so much reading to do and so few languages already learned.

  20. @shadownephilim

    You must let me know what you are reading and what you think of it. I am hungry for asian lit, good asian lit, so much of the stuff I come across is below par, mostly because it's catering towards being 'ethnic' writing rather than good writing.

    I wish I was a polyglot. I wonder if polyglots have favorite languages or language synesthesia.

  21. Hellooo,
    Someone linked to this on Twitter:

    and it led me to this:

    I'm really thrilled to have come across these, am going to have a proper look later after work! :D