Sunday, July 11, 2010

currently reading... Charing Cross + Yizo Yizo

currently reading: 2 very different books.

the first is "84 Charing Cross Road” – a friendship in letters, between Helen (a woman who lives in NY), and Frank, a bookshop guy in a London bookstore where Helen tries to order some books that are out of print. this is a non-fiction book, the letters are real, they start in 1949, and continue into 1969. for me, the remarkable aspect is both the friendship, but also the effort made from both to locat books, and send them across the ocean, to be received and read. i just checked, the book was first published in 1970, the author is: Helen Hanff.

the other book is "Yizo Yizo" - a short story collection from South Africa, edited by Manfred Loimeier and released in Germany in 2005. the book tries to give a current picture of South African literature, which changed tremendously after the end of appartheit in 1994. there is both an introduction and a foreword included in the book, to sketch the current situation, in addition, i read through the Wiki essay on Literature of South Africa which captures the situation, and is noteworthy also for this quote, on the purpose of literature, and the questions connected to it:

Whose language, culture, or story can be said to have authority in South Africa when the end of apartheid has raised challenging questions as to what it is to be a South African, what it is to live in a new South Africa, whether South Africa is a nation, and, if so, what its mythos is, what requires to be forgotten and what remembered as we scour the past in order to understand the present and seek a path forward into an unknown future.

the collection features 11 authors, 2 died before the book went into print, one at the age of 30, the other at 34. a note on them is included in the introduction: "This, too, is the "real life", is South Africa, is the the reality that South African literature has to face."

reading through the collection also made me think of the collection on cuban literature, (the blog note on this: Cubanissimo) - so many parallels, like short story as populare format, and the situation of massive political change, and the question who can "speak" for the majority. and so many counterparts: Cuba with 1 language for all, and South Africa with 11 languages. or the political situation: Cuban politics causing authors to immigrate, while the change in South Africa is allowing authors that were anti-apartheid to return from their exile.


Jessie Carty said...

lOve hearing about what other people are reading and these both sound fascinating! I really like where you discuss the issue of exile in regards to what makes a countrys literature. I live in the American south and I'm interested in southern literature but how actually to define it? Can you only write southern lit if you were born there? Live there? Or can you be a nonsouthern and still write about the south with authority? Such a complex issue but one that lends well to a good discussion :) you got me thinking!

Dorothee Lang said...

It's such a huge question! I guess this also spoke to me as in Germany, there is divided history of East German and West German literature. And yes, the American south - how to define that?