Reading the World, One Book at a Time: Han Dong’s Banished

9780824833404PLate in 2011, the world was gearing up for the Olympics in London and Ann Morgan was planning to meet it more than halfway by reading “as many of the globe’s 196 independent countries . . . one book from every nation.” Her blog “A year of reading the world” tracks her progress and is filled with thoughtful commentary on not only what Morgan is reading (she’s not done yet) and her thoughts on the work, but also how she got there: the recommendations she received, the reasons behind her decision to read one book over another (e.g., for Bulgaria, Georgi Gospodinov over Elias Canetti: She discovered Gospodinov’s Natural Novel in a NYC bookstore “and it sounded so intriguing that I had to buy it and read it then and there”).

Morgan’s November 29, 2012 entry, “China: one in 1.3 billion,”details her discovery of Han Dong’s Banished!, published by UH Press in 2008. Forgoing this year’s Nobel Prize winner Mo Yan, Morgan decided on Han Dong after a meeting with translator, Nicky Harman:

“I couldn’t help being intrigued by [Harman’s] description of the book, which, by the sound of it, provided an unusual—even quirky—perspective on the events of Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution. My interest was also piqued by the translator’s comment that the structure of the book, which reads like a memoir, with each chapter devoted to a different character in the village, reflected a popular tradition in Chinese fiction. I decided it would be the book for me.”

Last year Morgan blogged “A year of reading women,” an equally insightful and entertaining trip through books, this time by women writers (largely British and North American) through the centuries.