by Ann Morgan
Harvill Secker, £16.99;
ANN MORGAN — who had blogged about her year reading only books by women — set herself a new literary challenge: to read one book from every one of the 196 countries.
Disappointingly, this book is less the story of this reading adventure — though her reviews of all the books are on her blog — so much as a reflection on the cultural and political issues of accessing a selection of writing that can be genuinely described as ’world literature’.
It is salutary to be reminded that our reading is hopelessly western-centric. But there’s a quixotic, contrived quality to the challenge Morgan sets herself — it’s almost colonial.
Many of the chapters are breezy discussions of well-trod, but vast and complex issues — censorship, big business and the internet, self-publishing, the economics of publishing, national identity — that feel like clever syntheses rather than new insights. Somehow, the pleasures and discoveries of reading get lost in translation.
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