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Literary Blog Hop

 

The Literary Blog Hop is a fortnightly event held at The Blue Bookcase prompting book bloggers to answer a question.

What literary title (fiction or non-fiction) do you love that has been under-appreciated?  We all know about the latest Dan Brown, and James Patterson isn’t hurting for publicity.  What quiet masterpiece do you want more readers to know?

When I saw this question, I thought it would be easy to answer.  It isn’t!  It is so difficult to judge the attention books receive and, of course, it varies with countries.  For instance, an Irish book might receive attention in Ireland, but not worldwide.

The first book I would name is If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino.  I do not know what kind of recognition this book has received.  I studied it as part of a course, but I had never heard of it before and when I talk to people, few have heard of it, so I believe it did not receive that much.  I think it is a great novel, which is a perfect example of metafiction.  I personally love it and would recommend it to anyone who likes stories that are not all tied-up.  It is confusing and dizzying.  I reviewed it a while ago here.

The second novel I want to mention is John McGahern‘s That They May Face the Rising Sun.  McGahern is better known for his novel Amongst Women and I think that, even in Ireland, That They May Face the Rising Sun has been under-appreciated, probably because of the success Amongst Women received.  Many have told me that you can only appreciate That They May Face the Rising Sun if you were born and raised in Ireland.  I agree that the book might take on another dimension if you are familiar with Irish history and culture, but I believe that it also speaks of universal experiences.  It is a book set in the Irish countryside, which follows the lives of country people at the pace of the seasons.  It brought me back to my youth when I used to spend all my holidays at the farm.  It is beautifully written and describes simple human emotions.  Its concern with change in rural Ireland is one that has happened in other countries and could touch anyone.  I love this book and I would urge you to read it; it’s my favourite Irish book, I think.  I read it a while ago and feel that it is too late now to do a review, but I would be happy if this post encouraged one of you to read it and, one day, to see a review of it on one of your blogs….

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“You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino’s new novel, If on a winter’s night a traveller. Relax. Concentrate. Dispel every other thought. Let the world around you fade. Best to close the door; the TV is always on in the next room. Tell the others right away, “No, I don’t want to watch TV!” Raise your voice – they won’t hear you otherwise – “I’m reading! I don’t want to be disturbed!” Maybe they haven’t heard you, with all that racket; speak louder, yell: “I’m beginning to read Italo Calvino’s new novel!” Or if you prefer, don’t say anything; just hope they’ll leave you alone.”

That’s how Calvino’s novel starts, addressing you, the reader. The first chapter describes the preparation before starting the book and describes the reader’s anticipation at reading it. It’s not until the end of the first chapter that you, and ‘you’, actually start reading If on a winter’s night a traveller. However, after a few pages, your reading of the novel is interrupted because of defective printing. You are then back to the original narrative to see ‘you’ going to the bookshop to get a replacement copy. There, ‘you’ meets Ludmilla, another reader to whom the same problem has happened. The whole novel keeps alternating between the original narrative and books-within-the-book, which are interrupted for one reason or another. There are a multitude of plots, but the central one is a love story between the two readers, and between them and books. It is a self-reflexive narrative that considers the process of reading, writing, and translating. It is confusing, but certainly most enjoyable. I loved it and would definitely recommend it!

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