Earlier this year, The Guardian‘s Culture Vulture blog made a New Year’s resolution of a kind: to embark on a world literature tour spotlighting work from countries overlooked on the literary map; that is to say, countries other than the U.S. or the U.K. In early January, the tour stopped in Finland; in early February it was Poland, and in the last 30 days, the country of discussion was the Czech Republic. Yesterday discussion opened on CanLit, and in the last 24 hours, the response has been strong, with over 100 different authors having been named in over 130 comments submitted by Culture Vulture visitors.
A survey of the comments offers a few surprises. Although, as one would expect, a lot of the usual names were dropped — numerous mentions of Alice Munro, Rohinton Mistry, Leonard Cohen, and Yann Martel were made, and a lively debate cropped up on whether or not Margaret Atwood’s work is really worth the hype — a collection of nice recommendations (probably from Canadians) has also been made. It includes poets and playwrights, Aboriginal authors, graphic novelists, young writers publishing with small presses, and Québécois authors, albeit in smaller concentrations than one would hope. One may or may not be surprised by the occasional post claiming that Canadian books are overrated, but two things that seem both sad and laughable are the moderators’ references to the “frozen north” and the “Arctic circle” and a photo on the website of maple leaves accompanied by the caption: “Sweet dreams … Maple leaves in Vermont.”