World Literature Challenge – anyone up for it?

In case you missed the news in early November the Man Booker Prize moved from an award that was restricted to Commonwealth writers to one that will “embrace any novelist writing originally in English and published in the UK.” They believe the changes will ensure “the winners…will in future be able to claim each year to have written the finest novel in English in the world”.  Sorry to upset the apple cart guys but not every English novel gets published in the UK?
With the Man Booker Prize now changing its format, it is probably time for me to review my long term commitment to the award. Personally if I wanted to read novels from non-Commonwealth Countries I simply pick up a Pulitzer or National Book Award shortlisted novel (from the USA) or scour the many awards that are out there (eg. The IMPAC Dublin Literary Award). One of the charms of the early Booker Prize shortlists was to see novels that were unashamedly “English”, books like the inaugural winner “Something to Answer For” by P.H. Newby or J.G. Farrell’s stunning “The Siege of Krishnapur” from 1973. I cannot help but feel as though the list will be now diluted and we already have awards that celebrate the English novel, why add another.
Now I’ve got that off my chest onto the idea of this post. For quite sometime my wife and I have been planning to see as many UNESCO World Heritage Listed sites on the planet, now with over 981 properties on the list that is one hell of a travel budget. Maybe we should restrict it to the 193 natural sites that have “outstanding universal value?” Having this bucket list gave me a thought, why not read novels from the countries we visit? How about I extend that challenge? So here it is, my 2014 challenge, to read at least twelve novels from countries that appear on the UNESCO World Heritage List (Natural Sites only).
How I’ve put together the 2014 listing was to simply put together the list of the eighty-four countries that feature a heritage site, and then generated a random number for each (thanks excel) and then sorted – viola my listing appears.
1 – Mauritania
2 – Peru
3 – Zambia
4 – Tanzania
5 – Denmark
6 – Bangladesh
7 – Chad
8 – Mexico
9 – New Zealand
10 – Saint Lucia
11 – South Africa
12 – Norway
As you can see I have set myself quite a challenge, it will mean researching works from these countries and then sourcing them in English. Given Mauritania appeared at the top of the list (probably the hardest one to research and source) I’ll kick this challenge off in February and somewhere during the year squeeze in two over a month (probably South Africa and Norway at the end of the year).
Who is up to join me for quite a challenging but one I believe will be extremely rewarding – one month, all the way through? Contributions as to what on earth I should read will be more than welcome. There seems to be quite an African flavour there, with a few obscure smaller Nations also included (where are Australia, USA, UK???)

Now off to research the literature of the small Western coastal African nation of Mauritania.

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