Literary The Southern Hemisphere • June 2020
#1  sun surfer 06-01-2020, 06:07 AM
Help select what we'll read and discuss next!

The topic is The Southern Hemisphere.

This would be books both by authors from the southern hemisphere and set in the southern hemisphere. That's a huge swath so there's more than plenty to choose from, but it still gives us a unique focus.

Detailed nominating and voting guidelines can be found here. Basically, nominations are open for about four days and each person may nominate up to three literary selections which will go automatically to the vote. Voting by post then opens for four days, and a voter may give each nomination either one or two votes but only has a limited number of votes to use which is equal to the number of nominations minus one. Any questions, feel free to ask.

We hope that you will read the selection with us and join in the discussion.


Nominations are now complete. Initial voting is complete. Run-off voting is now open! Results through post #19-

#2  sun surfer 06-01-2020, 06:41 PM
My first nomination is An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter by César Aira. The author is Argentine and the novella is set in Argentina.

Goodreads, Preview, 93 pages, 2000, Argentina

An astounding novel from Argentina that is a meditation on the beautiful and the grotesque in nature, the art of landscape painting, and one experience in a man's life that became a lightning rod for inspiration.

An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter is the story of a moment in the life of the German artist Johan Moritz Rugendas (1802-1858). Greatly admired as a master landscape painter, he was advised by Alexander von Humboldt to travel West from Europe to record the spectacular landscapes of Chile, Argentina, and Mexico. Rugendas did in fact become one of the best of the nineteenth-century European painters to venture into Latin America. However this is not a biography of Rugendas. This work of fiction weaves an almost surreal history around the secret objective behind Rugendas' trips to America: to visit Argentina in order to achieve in art the "physiognomic totality" of von Humboldt's scientific vision of the whole. Rugendas is convinced that only in the mysterious vastness of the immense plains will he find true inspiration. A brief and dramatic visit to Mendosa gives him the chance to fulfill his dream. From there he travels straight out onto the pampas, praying for that impossible moment, which would come only at an immense pricean almost monstrously exorbitant price that would ultimately challenge his drawing and force him to create a new way of making art. A strange episode that he could not avoid absorbing savagely into his own body interrupts the trip and irreversibly and explosively marks him for life.

#3  sun surfer 06-01-2020, 07:07 PM
My second is Leaves of the Banyan Tree by Albert Wendt. The book is set in Samoa and the author is a Samoan who later moved to New Zealand.

Goodreads, Preview, 426 pages, 1979, Samoa & New Zealand

An epic spanning three generations, Leaves of the Banyan Tree tells the story of a family and community in Western Samoa, exploring on a grand scale such universal themes as greed, corruption, colonialism, exploitation, and revenge. Winner of the 1980 New Zealand Wattie Book of the Year Award, it is considered a classic work of Pacific literature.
Since the Goodreads description is so sparse, I'll also include the top review. It contains some mild plotline spoilers, but not any more egregious than many run of the mill Goodreads or book jacket synopses.

A fascinating insight into Samoa across three generations of a family. Set in 1900-1970ish, Tauilopepe is the central character. He is the headman of his aiga and wants to be the most powerful man in his village. He is seriously ambitious and as his fortunes rise, he moves further away from his culture to reward himself with a big house, a flushing toilet, whisky, and the ability to send his sons to Western schools.

This is a book about greed, misuse of power, the use of religion to influence people and the impact of "progress". It is a clever book as all the problems are caused by Samoans. The colonialists are there, profiteering, acting like royalty, disrespecting Samoan culture, abusing women and becoming drunkards. But they are a side show to the problems the Samoans caused themselves.

Tauilopepe's son Pepe and his relationship with Samoan culture was the most complex. Pepe respected the past and rebelled against "progress", his father's wealth and his father's failure to listen to his history.

A fascinating book.

#4  sun surfer 06-01-2020, 07:24 PM
My third is Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee. The novel is set in South Africa, and Coetzee is a South African who later moved to Australia.

Goodreads, Preview, 224 pages, 1999, South Africa & Australia

Set in post-apartheid South Africa, J. M. Coetzee’s searing novel tells the story of David Lurie, a twice divorced, 52-year-old professor of communications and Romantic Poetry at Cape Technical University. Lurie believes he has created a comfortable, if somewhat passionless, life for himself. He lives within his financial and emotional means. Though his position at the university has been reduced, he teaches his classes dutifully; and while age has diminished his attractiveness, weekly visits to a prostitute satisfy his sexual needs. He considers himself happy. However, when Lurie seduces one of his students, he sets in motion a chain of events that will shatter his complacency and leave him utterly disgraced.

#5  AnotherCat 06-04-2020, 12:58 AM
I have one nomination to make so far.

Owls Do Cry - Janet Frame.

This is commonly regarded as NZ's first true novel, published in 1957, and while it is well regarded internationally in literature it does promote mixed reactions from readers. Frame's own past is troubling and as far as I can gather that is reflected in this book. I have not read any of her novels, just have intended to, except for one of her autobiographies which I read back (way back ) in student days.

#6  Bookworm_Girl 06-04-2020, 08:42 PM
Interesting choices so far! I am working on mine.

#7  AnotherCat 06-04-2020, 09:26 PM
I am not sure about this one as I have a feeling that I have nominated it before and maybe books cannot be nominated twice??? Anyway, if it survives nomination it is an Australian classic which I have read way back but which I have in mind to read again.

For the Term of His Natural Life - Marcus Clarke

This Australian light hearted comic novel is a bit expensive in ebook and I doubt will be available in non-Australasian libraries, but I will give it a go. It is popular literature having been around and available for decades, I think one of the largest selling Australian novels ever. I have read it a couple of times over the years and could easily stand doing so again. Some of it may go over non-Australian heads but it is a fair take-off of Australia at the time and loved by those it depicts.

They're a Weird Mob - John O'Grady (aka Nino Culotta)

#8  Bookworm_Girl 06-04-2020, 09:31 PM
My first nomination is Patchwork by Ellen Bandu-Aaku (Zambia). Winner of the Penguin Prize for African Writing 2010 (fiction).

From Amazon:
Everyone calls me Pumpkin. Firstly, because I was a fat, chubby-cheeked baby. And, secondly, because when Ma was pregnant with me, no matter how much pumpkin she ate, she just couldn't get enough ...'. Lusaka. 1978. Pumpkin is nine years old. Her fashionable mother is the queen of Tudu Court, but underneath the veneer of respectability that her father's money provides lies a secret that threatens their whole world - the tall, elegant Totela Ponga is a drunk. And when Pumpkin's father - the wealthy businessman JS - discovers her mother's alcoholism it sets in motion a chain of events that come to define the rest of her life. Weaving together the stories of three generations of women, this novel is a patchwork of love, jealousy and human frailty set against a backdrop of war and political ambition. It is a remarkable journey that takes us deep into the heart of a family both fractured and bound together by their love for one man.

#9  Bookworm_Girl 06-04-2020, 09:35 PM
My second nomination is The Blue Hour by Alonso Cueto (Peru). Winner of Premio Herralde de Novela (2005) and Premio de traducción literaria Valle Inclán for Frank Wynne (2013).

From Amazon:
Adrián Ormache, a high-flying lawyer with a beautiful wife and two daughters, leads a privileged and glamorous life in one of Lima’s wealthiest neighbourhoods. But when his mother dies, he discovers a letter amongst her possessions making shocking claims about her now long-dead husband, Adrián’s father – a commander in the army during the Peruvian Civil War of the 1980s. As well as being linked to atrocities committed against the ‘Shining Path’ guerrillas, it appears that he also kidnapped and kept a local girl, whose family now seeks retribution.

Shocked out of his comfortable existence, Adrián becomes obsessed with finding the girl at the heart of the mystery, and sets out to face the harrowing realities of Peru’s recent past, and uncover the truth about his father.
From Goodreads:
A stunning, prize-winning novel exploring the aftermath of the Peruvian Civil War, by one of the greatest living South American writers.

This is literary fiction with definite crossover elements: family secrets; an obsessive love affair; the brutality, misery and guilt of war; an intrigued and intriguing anti-hero searching for answers.

#10  Bookworm_Girl 06-04-2020, 09:39 PM
My third nomination is American Visa by Juan de Recacoechea (Bolivia). Winner of Bolivia's National Book Prize and adapted into an award-winning film.

From Goodreads/Amazon:
Armed with fake papers, a handful of gold nuggets, and a snazzy custom-made suit, an unemployed schoolteacher with a singular passion for detective fiction sets out from small-town Bolivia on a desperate quest for an American visa, his best hope for escaping his painful past and reuniting with his grown son in Miami.

Mario Alvarez’s dream of emigration takes a tragicomic twist on the rough streets of La Paz, Bolivia’s seat of government. Alvarez embarks on a series of Kafkaesque adventures, crossing paths with a colorful cast of hustlers, social outcasts, and crooked politicians—and initiating a romance with a straight-shooting prostitute named Blanca. Spurred on by his detective fantasies and his own tribulations, he hatches a plan to rob a wealthy gold dealer, a decision that draws him into a web of high-society corruption but also brings him closer than ever to obtaining his ticket to paradise.

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